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7(XL i66b 59-0056? 


B 701 H66b 59-00567 

ai Hippie 

E; The beautiful, the sublime , 

Ai and the picturesque in 

Eighteenth-century British 

Aesthetic theory 


MAR21 f 

MAY 69 





The Beautiful, The Sublime, 
& The Picturesque 


Eighteenth- Century 
British Aesthetic Theory 





by The Southern Illinois University Press 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number S7~"9535 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

by Vail-Ballou Press, Inc., Binghamton, N.Y. 




i. Beautiful and Sublime 

1 Joseph A ddison 1 3 

2 Francis Hutcheson 25 

3 David Hume 37 

4 William Hogarth 54 

5 Alexander Gerard 67 

6 Edmund Burke , 83 

7 ZLor^ Kames 99 

8 /##& J9/<rir 122 

9 6zr Joshua Reynolds 133 

10 Thomas Reid 149 

11 Archibald Alison 158 

ii- Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

1 2 The Picturesque 185 

13 William Gilpn 192 

1 4 &> Uvedale Price 202 

vi Contents 

1 5 Humphry Region 224 

1 6 The Price-Repton Contr oversy 238 

1 7 Richard Payne Knight 247 

1 8 The Price-Knight Controversy 278 

19 Dugald Stewar t 284 
Retrospect 303 
NOTES 323 

INDEX 385 




Philosophers, who find 
Some favorite system to their mmd y 
In every point to make it fit } 
Will force all nature to submit. 


THIS STUDY is both more and less than its title suggests: more 
in that the writings on aesthetics of the authors treated are discussed 
without close restriction to arguments on beauty, sublimity, and 
picturesqueness j less in that numerous eighteenth-century writers 
on the beautiful, the sublime, and the picturesque, writers even of 
some intrinsic or historical importance, are omitted. 

THE METHOD of my inquiry has dictated the first deviation from 
the subject as narrowly conceived. It is my opinion that previous 
reviews of the several aspects of eighteenth-century aesthetic theory 
of sublimity, of the picturesque, of taste, or of still more limited 
topics have been in some measure vitiated by this very limitation. 
Since sublimity and picturesqueness are usually defined by distinc- 
tion from beauty and from one another, and since the principles, 
bases, and functions of these distinctions are ordinarily different in 
different writers, no adequate and accurate account of any one such 
character, divorced from the others, is possible. All three must be 
seen at once, for the philosophic problem consists partly in their 

The view of these aesthetic characters adopted by a writer is ordi- 
narily a consequence of, or is at any rate referred to, a set of psycho- 
logical (or metaphysical) principles, and is further determined by 
the devices of argumentation employed. Treatment of beauty, sublim- 
ity, and picturesqueness requires, therefore, some examination of 
the philosophic and methodological principles of the aestheticians 
surveyed. There is in all aesthetic phenomena, moreover, an inter- 
action of subject and object of the faculties of the percipient with 


4 Introduction 

the properties and relations of the aesthetic object which makes it 
impossible to define either variable independently of the other: taste 
cannot be discussed in abstraction from the nature of beauty, nor is 
beauty definable apart from the nature of the mind apprehending 
it. Taste, therefore and those faculties into which taste may be 
resolved, or with which it may be connected must be treated con- 
jointly with beauty. Very often, too, the solution of critical problems 
in the arts of the paradox, for instance, that imitations of unpleasant 
originals may be aesthetically agreeable is so closely connected with 
the view taken of the nature of beauty, or of taste, that such problems 
must be included as well. 


EACH SYSTEM of aesthetics, then, is presented as an integral whole, 
and presented, moreover, in its own terms 5 and I have intended 
hereby to avoid two great evils of scholarly surveys. There is first 
(as I hope) no distortion of doctrine consequent upon wrenching 
fragments out of their systematic contexts to be incorporated into an 
historical or dialectical account organized on principles different from 
those of the systems analyzed. For most of the authors I have 
studied, there exist no accurate accounts of their positions 5 and this 
defect I hope that I have in some measure supplied. 

A more subtle undermining of the logical integrity of texts re- 
sults, it seems to me, from the almost universal practice of treating 
a "topic" as it appears in one or several authors. When a writer's 
pronouncements on the picturesque, or the use of figurative language, 
or the cultivation of taste, or the relation of judgment to genius (or 
whatever it may be) are picked out of his books and ranged along- 
side the pronouncements of his predecessors and successors, not only 
is the precise meaning lost, but the opinions usually come to seem 
shallow and witless. One comes away from articles or books about 
writers who were, in their day, reckoned as impressive thinkers con- 
vinced that tous les hommes sont fous. The opinions even of Aris- 
totle and Hume, so reported, are such as any sophomore would re- 
ject with scorn. The great difference between the judgments of a 
good writer and those of everyman lies in the circumstance that in 
one case the opinions are supported by arguments and have a sys- 
tematic connection with opinions on other topics. The philosophic 
value of a thought is a function of its context, and can be estimated 
only in its context. A major difference, then, between this study and 

Introduction 5 

many others of the same period, is that I take the period, its writers, 
and its books seriously, and try to make the doctrines reported seem 
as plausible as I can by outlining their logical bases. 

It will strike the reader of this study, that it does not seem to be 
a history. It is not a history j it is a philosophical survey of a series 
of aestheticians, a survey in which the writers are arranged chronologi- 
cally chiefly for the reason that the later ones had read the earlier, 
and argue with them arguments which are not fully intelligible 
unless one is familiar with the positions canvassed. My interest has 
been in systems considered as logical structures, not in the changing 
tastes, suppositions, and approaches of the men who create the sys- 
tems j and I have wished to keep the two questions distinct. 

The historical problem seems to me, moreover, exceptionally dif- 
ficult of solution: what are those narrative propositions about eight- 
eenth-century British aesthetics which will neither conflict with the 
data nor be so vaguely general as to be nugatory? The existing his- 
tories (books and articles) seem to me to fall into the two classes 
which R. S. Crane has described: philological and dialectical. 1 In a 
history of philosophy, or of some branch or problem of philosophy, 
handled as a philological inquiry, the influence of philosophical and 
methodological principles is minimized. The intellectual causes de- 
termining the propositions enunciated by theorists are ignored in 
favor of a technique of comparison of passages in the work treated 
with passages in other works exhibiting similarity in terms, distinc- 
tions, organization, or doctrine. This procedure does have the merit 
of focussing attention upon the text, and the more dubious advantage 
that the historian need have no special philosophic competence, and, 
indeed, need not even have read continuously or entire the texts 
he discusses. In its common form, the philological method produces 
source-and-influence studies j in its extreme form, scholars may be 
led to attempt solution of philosophical problems by merely lin- 
guistic considerations. 

The other common mode of intellectual history is dialectical: the 
historian endeavors to cope with the diversity of terms, principles, 
and arguments in the writers he treats by arranging them under a 
set of organizing ideas which he himself supplies. These organizing 
ideas or terms must clearly be larger in scope vaguer than those 
used by the authors discussed 5 and very commonly they are ordered 
in pairs of general contraries reason and feeling, objective and sub- 
jective, classical and romantic, Faustian and Apollonian, and so forth. 
The attitudes of authors, as inferred from or read into their state- 

6 Introduction 

ments, are ranged under such heads without much regard to the 
arguments by which the statements were supported ; and lines of 
persistence and change are traced within or between these sets of at- 
titudes. Such analogical history produces, in its more pedestrian 
mode, the studies of literary or philosophical problems which analyze 
the struggles of authors with the dilemmas and inconsistencies that 
appear when their texts are interpreted in the light of the historian's 
schematism; and in its more ambitious mode, studies in the evolu- 
tion of the Zeitgeist. 


NOT FINDING a history in the subject, and not desiring to superimpose 
one, I confine this book to the analysis of texts, interposing historical 
conjectures only where clear-cut intellectual causes appear to me. 
This analysis of texts is not intended to be precis-writing. There is 
summary of doctrine here, fuller, in the case of many of these writers, 
than is available elsewhere ; but the summary is accompanied by 
commentary pointing out philosophic principles, methods of argu- 
ment, interconnections of parts within systems, interrelations be- 
tween systems. In particular, the disputes conducted so vigorously 
among the eighteenth-century aestheticians most notably that three- 
cornered argument of Price, Knight, and Repton over the picturesque 
are treated with the intention of showing how far translation from 
the language of one system into that of another can solve the dif- 
ferences, and how far they are real 3 and if real, how far they arise 
from the fundamental suppositions and argumentative techniques 
of the disputants. I have not hesitated to engage in criticism of my 
authors; but this criticism is not usually based only on difference of 
opinion. I have intended to discover the coherence and adequacy 
of each system. But the author of a system may through some 
prejudice or passion lose sight of or contravene his own principles 5 
he may fail to carry them out to their full reach and scope; he may 
introduce dogmas logically unconnected with the system; and, of 
course, his principles may be from the first unequal to explanation 
of the phenomena. In confuting the opinions of predecessors or 
antagonists, moreover, authors characteristically misconceive and mis- 
state the positions they attack; and the analyst must set these mis- 
constructions right. 

Before entering upon exposition of the several systems, it may 
be proper to hazard a few generalizations about the entire group of 

Introduction J 

writers treated. All are concerned with a subject beauty, or beauty 
and sublimity, or beauty and sublimity and picturesqueness which 
transcends the boundaries between nature and art. The principles of 
aesthetics and criticism, accordingly, are sought not in the peculiar 
nature of art, but in what is common to nature and art and this 
common element, since the Cartesian revolution in philosophy, is of 
course the mind which apprehends both realms. At the beginning of 
the century, Addison proclaimed that "Musick, Architecture and 
Painting, as well as Poetry and Oratory, are to deduce their Laws 
and Rules from the general Sense and Taste of Mankind, and not 
from the Principles of those Arts themselves j or, in other Words, 
the Taste is not to conform to the Art, but the Art to the Taste." 2 
A host of writers during the century iterate and reiterate like opin- 
ions, and towards its close Alison echoes the thought once more, 
quoting the very passage from The Spectator? All these aestheticians 
(again), whether philosophers, artists, or amateurs, are concerned 
with the response of the mind to the qualities and relations of objects 
in nature and art, and there are in every case three problems: the 
nature of the effects on the mind beauty and sublimity and pic- 
turesqueness as feelings j the nature of the causes of those effects in 
objects beauty and sublimity and picturesqueness as traits of the 
objects of perception and consciousness; and the nature of the con- 
nection between causes and effects the mechanism of efficiency. The 
way in which these three problems are formulated and solved is, of 
course, in some measure unique in each writer, and the isolation of 
this uniqueness is the chief problem of the scholar. 

In the first place, a distinction can be drawn between literal and 
dialectical writers between, that is, those writers who employ terms 
uni vocally, who keep aesthetic questions separate (except for causal 
connections) from ethical and scientific questions, and who are con- 
cerned with discovering literal cause-and-effect sequences \ and those 
writers who employ terms analogically (ordinarily arranged as con- 
traries), who tend to bring aesthetics, ethics, and science under the 
same principles, and who argue less by cause-and-effect than by dis- 
tinguishing "levels" of thought and reality. Of the writers here 
treated, Reynolds alone is dialectical. The great majority are literal, 
and seek literal causes of aesthetic sensibility j further differentiation 
can be effected by considering the kinds of causes discovered. The 
mechanism through which the objective properties and relations pro- 
duce their subjective responses may be either physiological or psycho- 
logical: that is, feelings of beauty (or of sublimity or picturesqueness) 

8 Introduction 

may be taken to be the direct consequence o organic and nervous re- 
sponses, or (instead) they may be held to be the consequence of 
purely mental operations subsequent to perception or consciousness of 
their objects. No writer finds these aesthetic feelings wholly de- 
pendent on physiological agency, but physiological causes play a con- 
trolling role in the theory of Burke, a substantial role m that of 
Uvedale Price, and no inconsiderable part in the theory of Payne 
Knight. 4 

Those writers who emphasize mental faculties and operations as 
the essential mechanism producing our feelings of beauty may 
either postulate special faculties appropriated to this purpose the 
internal senses of Hutcheson and Lord Kames or may emphasize 
special modes of operation of faculties appropriated to other func- 
tions notably the association of ideas. If internal senses are ap- 
pealed to, a further distinction can be based on the number of such 
senses: whether various modes of beauty are analogically reduced to 
perceptions of one such sense (as in Hutcheson) or whether the num- 
ber of senses is multiplied to match the different classes or material 
causes of beauty (as in Lord Kames). 

If no extraordinary sense is discovered, and beauty is attributed to 
the ordinary faculties functioning in some special way, the case is 
more complex. If the term "association of ideas" is taken in a sense 
sufficiently loose, all of these mental phenomena can be so designated: 
thus Alison can be said to trace all aesthetic effect to "association." 
But if the term be taken this broadly (to which some writers make 
objection), then various kinds of association need to be discriminated. 
Associations among atomic impressions and ideas must be distin- 
guished from habits and tendencies of the faculties. Comprised among 
atomic associations are associations between impressions of the ex- 
ternal senses, as in the improved perceptions of sight. There are 
direct associations between sense impressions and passions. There are 
associations between the ideas of the qualities and relations of sensible 
objects and those of human personality. There are associations in- 
volving the ideas of external objects as wholes (i.e., in distinction 
from their qualities and relations severally), and these of two kinds: 
the ideas of the objects may be associated as such (the idea of a tree 
qua tree) with ideas of human life and activity, or with other af- 
fecting ideas $ or they may be associated as signs or symbols (Matthew 
Arnold's Signal Elm, for instance) of historical, social, artistic, or 
other phenomena. The bent of a writer in attending more to one or 
more to another type of these associations is of great, indeed of crucial, 

Introduction 9 

influence in determining the kind of aesthetic system he will devise. 
Convinced of the importance of such differences in efficient causes for 
explaining the aesthetic doctrine, and the taste, of my writers, I have 
throughout noted with care the mechanisms they postulate or infer 5 
and where there is enough of a general system to admit of such re- 
duction, I have attempted to trace these positions to still more funda- 
mental divergences. 


I HAVE REMARKED that this study is not only, in one sense, more, but 
in another, less than it seems to promise. It is less, since not all 
writers, perhaps not even all important writers, on beauty, sublimity, 
and picturesqueness, are included in the survey. Among the authors 
not treated (unless by allusion) are Shaftesbury, Richardson, Aken- 
side, Harris, Spence, Webb, Lowth, Adam Smith, James Usher, 
Thomas Whately, Beattie, Priestley, John Stedman, William Green- 
field, 5 Jeffrey, and Brown. Some apology will be demanded for the 
inclusion of this, and the exclusion of that author perhaps for the ex- 
clusion of any. It was my feeling, that any writer treated at all should 
be treated fully, and a necessary limitation of scale prevented this 
full treatment of all pertinent writers. A selection being necessary, 
I have dwelt, first, upon those writers who appear to me to be of 
greatest intrinsic interest, and, second, upon those who are necessary 
antecedents to the former. This second criterion accounts for the ex- 
clusion of philosophers like Shaftesbury and Adam Smith in favor of 
amateurs and gardeners like Gilpin and Repton. The inclusion of 
Addison needs, I suppose, no apology, since (though by no means a 
profound thinker) Addison far more than any other writer initiated 
and directed the aesthetic speculation of the century. Gilpin plays a 
rather similar role in the discussion of the picturesque late in the 
century. Repton is so inextricably intertwined in controversy with 
Price and Knight that he could not well be omitted (and it was an 
additional incentive that there exists no comprehensive study of 
Repton's theory). Hume and Blair and Reid are not of signal im- 
portance as aestheticians, but the cogency of Hume's brief observa- 
tions, and his standing as a philosopher, alike demand his inclusion; 
Blair's role as the leading rhetorician, and Reid's as the leading 
philosopher of the latter part of the century, dictated a study of their 
views. The works of Hutcheson and Hogarth, Gerard and Burke, 
Kames and Reynolds, Alison, Price, and Knight, and of Dugald 

I o Introduction 

Stewart make defense of their inclusion unnecessary, for these are the 
major works of the century. 

One final note may be proper to this Introduction. I am aware 
that the words "aesthetic," "aesthetics," were not used in the eight- 
eenth century j the study now termed "aesthetics" was then most 
often called "philosophical criticism." But this term, besides being 
cumbersome, seems to imply, because of the ordinary connection of 
"criticism" with art, a particular theory of aesthetics, and one very 
foreign to the British writers of the eighteenth century. 1 have, there- 
fore, indulged the anachronism of employing the modern term. 


Beautiful and Sublime 



ALTHOUGH writers like John Dennis and Lord Shaftesbury 
JL\^ had been discussing the sublime, or the sublime and the beauti- 

' ful, for some years, it was Addison's "Essay on the Pleasures of the 
Imagination" which formulated the problems of aesthetics in such 

* a fashion as to initiate that long discussion of beauty and sublimity 
and later of the picturesque which attracted the interest and exer- 
cised the talents of philosophers, men of letters, artists, and amateurs 
until well into the nineteenth century. 

When Addison announced his forthcoming essay comprised in The 

1 Spectator papers of June 21 through July 3, 1712 (Nos. 411-21) he 
spoke of it as an undertaking "intirely new." l Doubtless nothing is 
entirely new under the sun, and much ink has been shed in tracing 
out faint anticipations of Addison's though ts$ Longinus, and the com- 
mentators on Longinus, have been raked through, philosophers from 
the time of Descartes and Hobbes have been searched, French critics 
and English poets have been examined yet after all, Addison's claim 

/to originality seems sound enough. In any event, I propose to rest in 
the conviction shared by most of the eighteenth-century aestheticians, 
that their science began with Addison. 

The papers on the pleasures of imagination were intended by Addi- 
son to be ancillary to an inquiry into the nature and acquisition of a 
"fine Taste of Writing," an inquiry broached in Spectator No. 409, 
which announces the forthcoming series. The last five papers of the 
"Essay" itself are devoted to this application, although it is the 
more purely aesthetic portion of the series which was chiefly influen- 
tial on Addison's successors. The account of taste is slender enough, 
yet Addison contrives to suggest many of the avenues of inquiry 
which later writers explored more thoroughly. The analogy of men- 
tal with physical taste suggests that taste consists in a discriminating 


14 Beautiful and Sublime 

perception which can discern "not only the general Beauties and Im- 
perfections of an Author, but discover the several Ways of thinking 
and expressing himself, which diversify him from all other Authors, 
with the several Foreign Infusions of Thought and Language, and 
the particular Authors from whom they were borrowed." 2 It is not 
difficult to see in this view of taste, or in the definition of it as "that 
Faculty of the Soul, which discerns the Beauties of an Author with 
Pleasure, and, the Imperfections with Dislike" 3 the sensibility, the 
acute perception or "refinement," and the correctness which Gerard 
was later to elucidate and analyze. The examination for taste which 
Addison provides supposes these same characteristics of the faculty: 
one should be delighted by admired authors (sensibility), should be 
able to isolate the peculiar virtue of an author (refinement), and 
should see the difference between the expression of a thought by a 
great writer and a mediocre (correctness) . Addison's taste in criticism 
is Longinianj he wishes for critics who will go beyond formulation of 
architectonic rules to isolate that more essential excellence which "ele- 
vates and astonishes the Fancy, and gives a Greatness of Mind to the 
Reader. . . ." 4 He proposes himself to supply this defect, and his 
"Essay" enters upon this criticism of qualities more essential than the 
formal traits of literary kinds. 

By "Pleasures of the Imagination," Addison means "such as arise 
from visible Objects, either when we have them actually in our View, 
or when we call up their Ideas into our Minds by Paintings, Statues, 
Descriptions, or any the like Occasion." 5 Although Addison com- 
plains of the "loose and uncircumscnbed" use of the term "imagina- 
tion," and announces that he will "fix and determine" its meaning, 
he really employs it to designate a conglomerate faculty o presenta- 
tion, of memory, of conception, and of association both controlled and 
undirected: the "noble Writer," Addison remarks, "should be born 
with this Faculty in its full Strength and Vigour, so as to be able to 
receive lively Ideas from outward Objects, to retain them long, and 
to range them together, upon occasion, in such Figures and Rep- 
resentations as are most likely to hit the Fancy of the Reader." 6 Yet 
despite this broad notion of imagination, Addison restricts it to ideas 
of sight: "We cannot indeed have a single Image in the Fancy that 
did not make its first Entrance through the Sight. . . ." 7 Now, 
putting aside the objection that mere sight does not perceive even 
distance and size, it is clear that images or ideas of the other senses 
are retained and used by the fancy, though not retained so vividly 
jaor used so freely as those of sight 5 Addison himself later instances 

Joseph Addtson 15 

the associated pleasures drawn from other senses in actual percep- 
tion, and it is not easy to see how he is to explain the "blending" of 
sounds and smells and sights if qualities of sight are perceived by "im- 
agination" and those of the other senses by some other and unspecified 
faculty. Still more grave in its consequences is the exclusion from 
imagination of all the objects of consciousness, the operations of 
mind. Are not passions, volitions, deliberations, all remembered and 
conceived reflectively? and separated, modified, and compounded? 
By excluding such objects from the imagination, Addison is led to 
ignore the manifold interconnections of the mental and material 
worlds, and therefore also all the beauty and sublimity flowing from 
the cognition of mental traits either directly or through their material 
expressions and analogues. 

, The distinction Addison draws between primary pleasures of the 
Imagination, which "entirely proceed from such Objects as are be- 
fore our Eyes," and secondary pleasures, "which flow from the 
Ideas of visible Objects, when the Objects are not actually before 
the Eye, but are called up into our Memories, or formed into agree- 
able Visions of Things that are either Absent or Fictitious," 8 has been 
often misconceived. Some commentators have thought that this 
division somehow follows out Locke's distinction of primary and sec- 
ondary qualities of matter with which it appears to me to have noth- 
ing in common but the words "primary" and "secondary," used in a 
sense different from Locke's. 9 Nor are Addison's primary and second- 
ary pleasures correspondent with Hutcheson's absolute and relative 
beauty 5 for relative beauty is the beauty of imitation, whereas Addi- 
son's secondary pleasures, though they may proceed from imitation, 
do not essentially do so there is no pleasure from recognition of imi- 
tation in the mere conception of an absent object. The secondary 
pleasures do not necessarily involve art: mere conceptions of memory 
afford them. They arise, in short, from objects "that once entered in 
at our Eyes, and are afterwards called up into the Mind either barely 
by its own Operations, or on occasion of something without us, as 
Statues, or Descriptions." 10 

Addison concludes his first paper with those observations on the 
advantages of the pleasures of imagination which were to be copied 
and enlarged upon throughout the following century that the pleas- 
ures of imagination are intermediate between those of sense and of 
intellect, since they "do not require such a Bent of Thought as is 
necessary to our more serious Employments, nor, at the same Time, 
suffer the Mind to sink into that Negligence and Remissness, which 

1 6 Beautiful and Sublime 

are apt to accompany our more sensual Delights, but, like a gentle 
Exercise to the Faculties, awaken them from Sloth and Idleness, with- 
out putting them upon any Labour or Difficulty." n 

Returning to the primary pleasures, Addison makes his most sig- 
nal advance in aesthetic theory by distinguishing three sources for 
them: the great, the uncommon, the beautiful. The differentiation 
of the great, or sublime, and the beautiful is the most striking feature 
of eighteenth-century aesthetic theory, and even Addison's threefold 
division although obnoxious to objection for making novelty (which 
is a relation) co-ordinate with the qualities of beauty and sublimity 
shows a remarkable persistence. Akenside employed it in his celebrated 
didactic poem, The Pleasures of Imagination. Forty years after 
Addison wrote, Joseph Warton declared that "greatness, novelty, and 
beauty, are usually and justly reckoned the three principal sources of 
the pleasures that strike the imagination." 13 Still later Daniel Webb 
was to write that "the Jupiter and Minerva of Phidias were subjects 
of astonishment in the most enlightened ages. It should seem, that 
the wonderful effect of these statues, proceeded from an union of 
the beautiful, with the great and uncommon 5 thus combining the 
whole influence of visible objects on the imagination." 14 And even 
Thomas Reid, though pointing out the fault of the categorization, 
and striking out novelty in the course of his argument, still adopts 
the division as a tentative arrangement. 15 

Some partial anticipations of Addison's distinction have been noted 
by Monk and others who have traced the development of Longinian 
sublimity, yet there appears to remain an irreducible surd of original- 
ity in the clear differentiation of beauty and sublimity. Monk has 
observed that Addison does not, in his "Essay on the Pleasures of the 
Imagination," use the term "sublimity," presumably because of its 
association with rhetoric and purely critical writing. 10 Addison's 
critique of Paradise Lost is perhaps the best place to study his use 
of "sublimity" 5 it is noteworthy that throughout this entire series, 
Addison speaks of actions and characters and objects as being "great/ 7 
"noble," "majestic," "magnificent," "marvellous," and so forth but 
never as being "sublime." Addison does speak, to be sure, of Milton's 
"sublime Genius," "sublime imagination," and "sublime manner of 
thinking," but this is a mere grammatical shorthand "sublime 
genius" means, not genius which is itself sublime as an object, but a 
genius for turning out sublime images and taxemes. 17 The term "sub- 
limity" is really confined in its application to images, to sentiments, 

Joseph Addison 17 

and to certain devices of language ; Addison uses the word, in short, 
precisely as Longinus does. 

Attention to the nature of those Miltonic descriptions the great- 
ness (or the sublimity) of which Addison especially admires illumines 
his conception of greatness, for numbers of them are images of those 
stupendous prospects which, in the "Pleasures of the Imagination" 
papers, typify greatness. Thus, Satan's sitting on the brink of the 
causeway from Heaven to Earth, "and taking a Survey of the whole 
Face of Nature, that appeared to him new and fresh in all its Beauties, 
with the Simile illustrating this Circumstance, fills the Mind of the 
Reader with as surprising and glorious an Idea as any that arises in 
the whole Poem." 18 The scene, in Addison's terminology, is great, 
the simile sublime. Again, Satan's "Roaming upon the Frontiers of 
the Creation, between that Mass of Matter, which was wrought into 
a World, and that shapeless unformed Heap of Materials, which 
still lay in Chaos and Confusion, strikes the Imagination with some- 
thing astonishingly great and wild." ld Here is the same taste, the 
same delight in spatial magnitude, especially when wild and "rude," 
that determines the illustrations in the "Pleasures of the Imagina- 
tion": "By Greatness [Addison declares], I do not only mean the 
Bulk of any single Object, but the Largeness of a whole View, 
considered as one entire Piece. Such are the Prospects of an open 
Champian Country, a vast uncultivated Desart, of huge Heaps of 
Mountains, high Rocks and Precipices, or a wide Expanse of Waters, 
where we are not struck with the Novelty or Beauty of the Sight, 
but with that rude kind of Magnificence which appears in many of 
Jthese stupendous Works of Nature." 20 Theodore Moore calls this 
^emphasis on magnitude "Addison's confusion of external size of form 
with an aesthetic sublime." 21 It is unquestionable that Addison sees 
an "aesthetic sublime" in physical magnitude but why is this a con- 
fusion? Vast objects tease the imagination, which "loves to be filled 
with an Object, or to grasp at any thing that is too big for its Ca- 
pacity," and "we are flung into a pleasing Astonishment at such un- 
bounded Views, and feel a delightful Stilness and Amazement in 
the Soul at the Apprehension of them." The delight in vastness arises 
also (which I take to be a distinct cause) from the circumstance that 
"the Mind of Man naturally hates every thing that looks like a 
Restraint upon it, and is apt to fancy it self under a sort of Con- 
finement, when the Sight is pent up in a narrow Compass, and 
shortened on every side by the Neighborhood of Walls or Moun- 

1 8 Beautiful and Sublime 

tains." 22 The last phrase is interesting, for it suggests very strongly 
Addison's preference of open prospects to, say, mountain passes, or 
his preference of the Pantheon to a Gothic cathedral, his preference 
(in brief) of horizontal extent as against elevation. In any event, 
vastness causes a feeling resembling that with which we are struck 
by the rhetorical sublime, and the transition is natural and obvious. 
It is usual to remark that Longinus himself compares the sublime 
with physical greatness: 

[Nature] has from the start implanted in our souls an irresistible love 
of whatever is great and stands to us as the more divine to the less. 
Wherefore not even the whole of the universe suffices for man's con- 
templation or scope of thought, but human speculations frequently exceed 
its compass. . . . Hence indeed it is that moved by some natural im- 
pulse we do not marvel at small streams . . . but at the Nile, the 
Danube, or the Rhine, and much more at the Ocean, nor yet are we 
more stirred by this flamelet that we kindle . . . than by the fires 
in heaven ... or consider it more wondrous than the craters of 
Aetna. . . . 23 

This identification of the sublime with physical vastness was in 
part a consequence of the adjustment philosophers and theologians 
had made to the Copernican cosmology: the infinity of deity was 
conceived by men like More and Burnet as extending through un- 
bounded space, and the spatial immensity was seen as an image of 
the divine nature. 24 The sublime thus became an aid to enthusiastic 
devotion, and Addison judged this to be its final cause. But there 
is also a purely systematic reason why Addison should stress magni- 
tude: the sublime must depend on visual images, in consequence of 
Addison's limitation upon the scope of imagination and the only 
trait of visible objects which astonishes the mind without operating 
clearly as a sign or by engaging the passions, is magnitude. 
/ There is in Addison no complicated discussion of the comparative 
r greatness of height, depth, and horizontal extent, or of the sublimity 
of time, or of the multitudinous other causes of the sublime which 
so occupy the attention of Gerard, of Burke, and of later writers. 
Nor is the psychological mechanism of sublimity traced beyond the 
apparently instinctive love of the imagination to expand and yet be 
baffled, or its instinctive hatred of circumscription. This is no more 
kthan a hint towards a theory of sublimity. 

' The new or uncommon, Addison affirms, "Raises a Pleasure in 
the Imagination because it fills the Soul with an agreeable Surprise, 
gratifies its Curiosity, and gives it an Idea of which it was not 

Joseph Addison 19 

before possest." 25 Addison's conception of novelty is very general: 
though the new and the singular are separately named, their effects 
are not differentiated - y there is no discussion of unexpectedness, nor 
any distinction of immediate from subsequent response 5 nor any 
treatment of the commingling of novelty with feelings other than the 
sublime and beautiful. Addison's novelty, indeed, includes variety 
and even motion and change generally. 26 The very generality of the 
notion makes source-hunting equally easy and inconclusive: for in 
what writer can we look without discovering some of these topics ? 

"But there is nothing," Addison continues, "that makes its way 
more directly to the Soul than Beauty y which immediately diffuses a 
secret Satisfaction and Complacency through the Imagination, and 
gives a Finishing to any thing that is Great or Uncommon." The 
gaiety of the emotion of beauty is insisted upon by numerous writers 
throughout the century, partly, no doubt, in consequence of the desire 
to distinguish it from the graver emotion of sublimity j as Addison 
puts it, "the very first Discovery of it [Beauty] strikes the Mind with 
an inward Joy, and spreads a Chearfulness and Delight through 
all its Faculties." 27 The beautiful and sublime, though different 
and distinguishable, are nowise incompatible for Addison, the two 
pleasures being even heightened by their conjunction. In certain 
contexts the sublime is made a species of the beautiful, as when 
Addison speaks loosely of the "beauties" (i.e., the excellences) of 
writing: he has endeavored to show, he says, that some passages of 
Paradise Lost "are beautifull by being Sublime, others by being Soft, 
others by being Natural. . . ." 28 Observing that different species 
of animals appear to have different notions of sexual beauty, Addison 
concludes that beauty is a function of our nature, not a property in- 
herent in objects absolutely. He takes no pains (as Burke and later 
writers were quick to point out 20 ) to show that the sexual attractions 
are based upon the perception of a beauty bearing any analogy to that 
more general beauty "in the several Products of Art and Nature" 
which consists "either in the Gaiety or Variety of Colours, in the Sym- 
metry and Proportion of Parts, in the Arrangement and Disposition 
of Bodies, or in a just Mixture and Concurrence of all together." 30 

In treating both beauty and sublimity, Addison has limited himself 
strictly to the visual-tactile properties, and even these are not ex- 
hausted, for there is no study of the beauty or sublimity of motion. 
The fashion in which sound becomes beautiful or sublime is given no 
study beyond the observation that agreeable sounds conjoined with 
. sights in particular scenes may reinforce the visual delights. There is 

20 Beautiful and Sublime 

no hint of the sublimity of the terrific, or of power or energy, or of 
moral grandeur or intellectual force, and none of the beauty of the 
softer moral traits and their expressions. 

Nor, in the discussion of beauty, do we find even those hints of the 
efficient mechanism which Addison presented in his discussion of sub- 
limity and novelty. He tells us, indeed, that "it is impossible for us 
to assign the necessary Cause of this [aesthetic] Pleasure, because we 
know neither the Nature of an Idea, nor the Substance of a Human 
Soul, which might help us to discover the Conformity or Disagree- 
ableness of the one to the other 5 and therefore, for want of such a 
Light, all that we can do in Speculations of this kind, is to reflect on 
those Operations of the Soul that are most agreeable, and to range, 
under their proper Heads, what is pleasing or displeasing to the Mind, 
without being able to trace out the several necessary and efficient 
.Causes from whence the Pleasure or Displeasure arises." 31 It is true 
that efficient causes in the sense of ultimate ties between matter and 
mind or antecedents and consequents, are undiscoverable; but a phe- 
nomenological account of the invariant sequences of sense perception, 
mental operation, and feeling is still possible 5 and Addison shirks the 
chief problem and difficulty when he gives up the search for efficient 
causes in favor of final causes which "lie more bare and open to our 
Observation" and "are generally more useful than the other, as they 
give us greater Occasion of admiring the Goodness and Wisdom of 
the first Contriver." 32 The final causes which Addison postulates are 
that delight in the great leads us to the contemplation of Deity, that 
pleasure in the novel stimulates our study of the creation, that at- 
traction to our own species prevents the production of infertile mon- 
sters, that general beauty makes the creation gay and agreeable. Such 
insights as these seem hardly a sufficient recompense for the efficient 
causes we are denied 3 but Addison's merit is, after all, rather to ini- 
tiate various lines of inquiry than to arrive at conclusive results. 

Addison's aesthetic analysis is complicated by the overlapping of 
various distinctions he employs: since the distinction of primary and 
secondary pleasures does not correspond to a distinction between art 
and nature, we find art affording primary pleasures and nature sec- 
ondary. 33 Nature alone can exhibit true vastness, "but tho> there are 
several of these wild Scenes, that are more delightful than any arti- 
ficial Shows j yet we find the Works of Nature still more pleasant, 
the more they resemble those of Art: For in this case our Pleasure 
rises from a double Principle j from the Agreeableness of the Objects 
to the Eye, and from their Similitude to other Objects: We are 

Joseph Addtson 21 

pleased as well with comparing their Beauties, as with surveying 
them, and can represent them to our Minds, either as Copies or Orig- 
inals." 34 Here Nature yields a secondary pleasure through its re- 
semblance to art works which it suggests: and here, I take it, is a 
hint of William Gilpin's picturesque the natural scene suitable for 
pictorial representation because composed like a picture. Addison, as 
always, throws out only hints: he does not distinguish the feelings 
evoked by a natural scene which is merely composed as if by design, 
and by one which calls to mind particular works of art, or the manner 
of particular masters or schools. The converse principle, ars est celare 
art em, is more a commonplace j but Addison's application of it to 
gardening theory betrays an advanced taste. Not only does Addison 
regard parterres and topiary work with some contempt 5 he envisions 
the jerme ornee. In a later Spectator > Addison (disguised as a cor- 
respondent) writes with pride that "if a Foreigner who had seen 
nothing of our Country should be conveyed into my Garden at his 
first landing, he would look upon it as a natural Wilderness, and one 
of the uncultivated Parts of our Country." 3C In this same paper Ad- 
dison recommends a winter garden of plants which are not decidu- 
ous the first such suggestion (I believe) in English garden literature. 
And he concludes with a rhapsody which (like the proposal for a 
winter garden) anticipates in little Lord Kames's enthusiasm for the 
art: "I look upon the Pleasure which we take in a Garden, as one 
of the most innocent Delights in humane Life. A Garden was the 
Habitation of our first Parents before the Fall. It is naturally apt to 
fill the Mind with Calmness and Tranquility, and to lay all its turbu- 
lent Passions at Rest. It gives us a great Insight into the Contrivance 
and Wisdom of Providence, and suggests innumerable Subjects for 
Meditation." 3C 

But to return there are not only secondary pleasures in nature, 
but primary pleasures in art. The art which beyond others yields pri- 
mary pleasures is, of course, architecture. Greatness is the distinguish- 
ing excellence of architecture, greatness not only of absolute dimen- 
sion, but of manner, "which has such force upon the Imagination, that 
a small Building, where it appears, shall give the Mind nobler Ideas 
than one of twenty times the Bulk, where the Manner is ordinary or 
little." 37 That there is a greatness of manner in which major parts 
are few and imposing, unperplexed by minute divisions and orna- 
ments, is evident 5 38 that on this account the interior of the Pantheon 
fills the imagination "with something Great and Amazing," while 
that of a Gothic cathedral affects but little, "which can arise from 

22 Beautiful and Sublime 

nothing else but the Greatness of the Manner in the one, and the 
Meanness in the other," 39 is less certain. Addison was insensitive to 
the sublimity of Gothic, and his account of greatness lacks the ele- 
ments which could correct his prejudice. The Gothic sublimity de- 
pends in great measure on the height of the roof, greater than that 
of the Pantheon in actuality and still greater in appearance because 
of the relative narrowness 5 but Addison's treatment of greatness does 
not remark the peculiar effects of height, or the influence of the ter- 
rific, or the element of wonder, or the impression made by dim light, 
or indeed anything which might contribute to an appreciation of the 
greatness of Gothic. The greatness of the Pantheon consists, according 
to Addison's analysis, chiefly in the circumstance of the rotunda's be- 
ing perceived in one coup d'oett; Burke later brings the sublimity of 
a rotunda under what he terms the artificial infinite, the succession 
of uniform parts which gives the imagination no rest. 40 There is no 
reason why Addison could not admit Burke's principle (though he 
could not subscribe to the physiological explanation which Burke haz- 
ards) j if he had employed Burke's principle, he would have been 
led by the same reasoning to appreciate the effect of the Gothic nave. 

Many, perhaps most, of the pleasures of art are secondary, pro- 
ceeding from "that Action of the Mind, which compares the Ideas 
arising from the Original Objects, with the Ideas we receive from the 
Statue, Picture, Description, or Sound that represents them." 41 As 
with the primary pleasures, Addison does not seek the efficient cause, 
and he supplies this defect with a final cause, the encouraging of 
search after truth, which depends upon comparing ideas together to 
observe their congruity and disagreement. 

The mimetic arts (all, that is, save gardening and architecture) 
are enumerated in order of degree of resemblance to their originals: 
sculpture, painting, verbal description, music. Description in words 
of visible objects may produce more lively ideas (Addison maintains) 
than the things themselves, because of the poet's powers of selection 
and combination 5 and no doubt the same observation is true in lesser 
degree of the other arts. Indeed, "because the Mind of Man requires 
something more perfect in Matter, than what it finds there, and can 
never meet with any Sight in Nature which sufficiently answers its 
highest Ideas of Pleasantness j or, in other Words, because the Imag- 
ination can fancy to it self Things more Great, Strange, or Beautiful, 
than the Eye ever saw, and is still sensible of some Defect in what it 
has seen 5 on this account it is the part of a Poet to humour the Imag- 
ination in its own Notions, by mending and perfecting Nature where 

Joseph Addis on 23 

he describes a Reality, and by adding greater Beauties than are put 
together in nature, where he describes a Fiction," provided only 
that he does not, by reforming nature too much, "run into Absurdi- 
ties, by endeavouring to excel." 42 

The secondary pleasures are distinguished further by the circum- 
stance one of the persistent problems of the century that disagree- 
able originals may please "in an apt description," or, no doubt, in a 
skilful painting or even in a statue. Addison's explanation is of the 
simplest: the pleasure of comparing "the Ideas that arise from Words 
[or from the plastic medium], with the Ideas that arise from the Ob- 
jects themselves." 43 Since the pleasure of comparison is, by this ac- 
count, simply reckoned off against the unpleasantness of the image, a 
pleasant subject, caeteris fanbus, is preferable: "But if the Description 
of what is Little, Common, or Deformed, be acceptable to the Imag- 
ination, the Description of what is Great, Surprising, or Beautiful, is 
much more so j because here we are not only delighted with comparing 
the Representation with the Original, but are highly pleased with the 
Original it self." 44 Another recommendation of description is that it 
may represent to us "such Objects as are apt to raise a secret Ferment 
in the Mind of the Reader, and to work, with Violence, upon his Pas- 
sions." 45 This principle introduces that special case of the imitation 
of unpleasant originals which is most often treated of the pity and 
fear of tragedy. Beyond the recognition of just imitation in this case, 
is the agreeable consciousness of our own security from the perils and 
sufferings represented, a consciousness permitted by the comparative 
detachment with which we view imitations. 46 

In the final paper of the series, Addison appears to approach to the 
beauty and sublimity of mind by treating of the similitudes and alle- 
gories drawn from "the visible Parts of Nature," by means of which 
allusions a truth of understanding is reflected in an image of imag- 
ination. But although this subject might have led into the realm of 
the associations and expressions by which mental and material beauty 
and sublimity are fused, Addison has nothing more iri mind than the 
ornamental function which such figures may serve in writing, and his 
observations are mere critical points about the subjects and uses of 
such ornaments. Addison remains a sort of materialist, sticking close 
to the visual properties of external objects $ he seems to see in the ob- 
jects of consciousness, in the operations of the mind itself, little that 
is pertinent to aesthetics. He is the only British aesthetician who so 
limits the province of imagination and the range of qualities which 
provide its pleasures. 

24 Beautiful and Sublime 

The various phenomena of association could have bridged the gap 
between mind and matter for Addison, and he was not unaware of the 
influence of association yet he makes little enough of it. He treats 
briefly of association among the impressions of the different senses, 47 
and briefly also of the associations of ideas, especially of those associ- 
ations based upon contiguity (". ... a particular Smell or Colour is 
able to fill the Mind, on a sudden, with the Picture of the Fields or 
Gardens where we first met with it, and to bring up into View all the 
Variety of Images that once attended it" 48 ). This phenomenon, as 
also the heightened delightfulness of pleasant scenes reviewed re- 
flectively, Addison explains by a "Cartesian" associationism, involving 
a hypothetical physiology of brain traces and animal spirits. Yet I 
think it clear from Addison's denial of the possibility of finding effi- 
cient causes when "we know neither the Nature of an Idea, nor the 
Substance of a Human Soul," that he cannot subscribe to these Car- 
tesian explanations in all earnestness. 49 

Addison's aesthetic theory is valuable not for its systematic rigor 
or its psychological profundity, for these merits it has in very ordinary 
measure, but for its clear and simple formulation of a set of problems 
which were to exercise many of the keenest minds for the following 
century and more, and which established as well a vogue in popular 
taste and a pattern for practicing artists. The problems were the na- 
ture of our sentiments of beauty and like aesthetic feelings, the mate- 
rial causes of these responses, the function of the aesthetic feelings, 
and though this last problem Addison himself shirked the mech- 
anism through which the feelings are generated. 50 But this estimate 
of Addison's accomplishment is not new: it is that of the eighteenth 
century. As Hugh Blair put it, "Mr. Addison was the first who at- 
tempted a regular inquiry [into the pleasures of taste], in his Essay 
on the Pleasures of the Imagination. . . . He has reduced these 
Pleasures under three heads j Beauty, Grandeur, and Novelty. His 
speculations on this subject, if not exceedingly profound, are, how- 
ever, very beautiful and entertaining j and he has the merit of having 
opened a track, which was before unbeaten." 51 


Francis Hutcheson 

THE FIRST treatise to follow the path of aesthetic inquiry 
which Addison had opened up the first philosophical document 
in modern aesthetics was An Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas 
of Beauty and Virtue.^ Issued anonymously in 1725, this work was 
the first important performance by Francis Hutcheson, Presbyterian 
teacher and later professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow. The 
Inquiry was followed three years later by An Essay on the Nature 
and Conduct of the Passions cmd Affections. With Illustrations of the 
Moral Sense. By the Author of the Inquiry into the Original of Our 
Ideas of Beauty and Virtue? and the two works constitute a kind of 
unity. Hutcheson's theory has attracted some attention in the past 
few decades, though it has not been accorded any very persuasive ex- 
position. The major study is W. R. Scott's Francis Hutcheson: His 
Life, Teaching and Position in the History of Philosophy , and Scott's 
attitude is belittling: "To foster the taste for Philosophy was Hutch- 
eson's main work. It would be unreasonable to expect that he also 
created a Philosophy." 3 Expecting not much in the way of system- 
atic thought, Scott does not find much. He discerns three stages in 
Hutcheson's development represented by the Inquiry > the Essay > 
and the System of Moral Philosophy together with the fourth edition 
of the Inquiry. Hutcheson himself, however, had never thought the 
System ready for the press 5 and in the two earlier works he speaks 
with entire unconsciousness of any shift in his position. Indeed, 
throughout the Essay volume, he refers to his four treatises by num- 
ber, as if they constituted parts of a single system: "An Inquiry con- 
cerning Beauty, Order, &c." becomes Treatise I; "An Inquiry con- 
cerning the Original of Our Ideas of Virtue or Moral Good," 
Treatise II j "An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions," 
Treatise III 5 and "Illustrations upon the Moral Sense," Treatise IV. 


2 6 Beautiful and Sublime 

Scott's entire study is weakened by his adoption of an arbitrarily ge- 
netic approach 5 some recent studies, while avoiding this fault, have 
been too slight to be very valuable j an adequate treatment of Hutch- 
eson's thought remains to be written. 4 

Hutcheson's method is partly differential, partly integral. Less of 
a Platonist than Shaftesbury, Hutcheson separates beauty from mor- 
ality (for though the moral may be beautiful, its morality is dis- 
tinct from its beauty) 5 beauty and morality spring from different 
causes and appeal to different faculties. Yet the beauty of which 
Hutcheson is in search is found in physical objects, in the theorems 
of science, in the acts of rational agents: clearly this beauty is analogi- 
cal, a universal appearing in similar but not literally identical mani- 
festations in these radically different subjects. It is possible to see how 
the problem which Hutcheson had engaged, together with his chosen 
method, would lead naturally to such a result. Hutcheson's interest 
was primarily ethical 5 his metaphysics and aesthetics are ancillary to 
the ethical speculations in which his major contributions were made. 
As a half-way disciple of Shaftesbury, Hutcheson was concerned to 
vindicate human nature against the selfish theories of ethics, the 
Hobbesian and Mandevillian, which engrossed the attention of dis- 
putants at this time, and also to correct the errors of those anti- 
Hobbists who injudiciously traced the springs of virtue to divine re- 
ward and punishment or to the natural self-gratulatory pleasure of 
virtue. The line which Hutcheson took as a guide through the laby- 
rinthine maze of error was the notion of internal senses ; by "sense" 
Hutcheson means, "a Determination of the Mind, to receive any 
Idea from the Presence of an Object) Which occurs to us, independ- 
ently on our Will." 5 Reacting against strained reduction of appar- 
ently clear perceptions to remote (and sometimes discreditable) prin- 
ciples, he tends always to assert the originality of the perceptions. 
\The slightness and generality of his metaphysics facilitated the pro- 
liferation of original principles which this approach involved. 

Hutcheson's spontaneous interest in aesthetics was probably slight. 
He displays little familiarity with works of art and a pretty casual 
appreciation of external nature ; his aesthetics is coldly schematic. The 
principal design of the inquiries into beauty and virtue is to show, 
"That human Nature was not left quite indifferent in the affair of 
Virtue, to form to it self Observations concerning the Advantage or 
Disadvantage of Actions, and accordingly to regulate its Conduct" 
The sense of beauty is taken up first, however, because, "If the Reader 

Francis Hutches on 27 

is convinced of such 'Determinations of the Mind to be $leas y d with 
Forms, Proportions, Resemblances, Theorems, it will be no difficult 
matter to a^rehend another superior Sense natural to Men, deter- 
mining them to be yleas'd with Actions, Characters, Affections." 7 

"Beauty," Hutcheson remarks as he begins his analysis, "is taken 
for the Idea rais'd in us, and a Sense of Beauty for our Power of re- 
ceiving this Idea," and the object of the inquiry is "to discover what 
is the immediate Occasion of these pleasant Ideas, or what real Qual- 
ity in the Objects ordinarily excites them." 8 The ideas of beauty are 
either original and absolute or comparative and relative in both 
cases ideal, but in the latter imitative or resemblant. "All Beauty? 
Hutcheson declares, "is relative to the Sense of some Mind perceiving 
it; but what we call relative is that which is apprehended in any Ob- 
ject, commonly considered as an Imitation of some Original: And 
this Beauty is founded on a Conformity , or a kind of Unity between 
the Original and the Copy." 9 The investigation of original beauty is 
concise 3 Hutcheson turns first to its simpler kinds, as in regular 
figures. "The Figures that excite in us the Ideas of Beauty, seem to 
be those in which there is Uniformity amidst Variety. There are many 
Conceptions of Objects that are agreeable upon other accounts, such as 
Grandeur, Novelty, Sanctity, and some others. . . . But what we call 
Beautiful in Objects, to speak in the Mathematical Style, seems to be 
in a compound Ratio of Uniformity and Variety. . . ." 10 The in- 
ternal sense, consequently, is "a passive Power of receiving Ideas of 
Beauty from all Objects in which there is Uniformity amidst Vari- 
ety" n The question should be raised, why Hutcheson takes the 
beauty of figure as simplest, when he acknowledges that the eye of 
itself perceives only color. The answer is, I suppose, that study of the 
beauty of color leads directly to no important results universally ap- 
plicable, whereas the principle of uniformity in variety is applicable 
(analogically, at least) to pretty nearly any subject. Intellectual 
comprehension of the variety in uniformity is of course not prereq- 
uisite to the perception of beauty ; the internal sense is immediately 
affected by that compound ratio. It is true, however, that the greatest 
variety in uniformity is to be found in the realm of intellect a the- 
orem of science may contain an infinity of infinites, as the theory of 
tangents applies to infinite species of curves, each of which contains 
an infinity of sizes, each of which in turn comprises an infinity of in- 
dividuals. Again, a principle may be deductively fertile, like the 
Newtonian Uws or the theory of natural rights ; the desire of reduc- 

28 Beautiful and Sublime 

ing to system is stimulated by the aesthetic sense independently of 
any notion of utility. 

Scott finds that in the later phases of Hutcheson's thought uni- 
formity tends to displace variety in the formula. 12 I believe, however, 
that Scott takes mere rhetorical changes for changes in doctrine, and 
does so because he misconceives the formula in the first instance. 
Scott understands that the discovery of new uniformities if so facto 
reduces variety 5 this is not true. Variety is the number and kind of 
parts, units, aspects, or whatever that make up the whole ; and uni- 
formity is the relations (of resemblance, causation, illation, or what 
not) obtaining among them. Uniformity can, accordingly, vary in 
some part independently of variety j the properties of a regular plane 
figure are very numerous, but the discovery of new ones does not re- 
duce its variety, for the number of sides and angles is unchanged. A 
number of modern aestheticians are concerned with this very rela- 
tion of uniformity and variety. George D. Birkhoff, for instance, finds 
the formula for beauty to be the ratio of uniformity ("order," as he 
terms it) to variety ("complexity"), whereas Hutch eson had found 
it to be the compound ratio i.e., the product. This difference arises 
from Birkhoff 's premise that all mental effort (as in perceiving vari- 
ety) is painful, and that recognition of order is a kind of reward for 
the effort 5 for a given uniformity, then, the more variety the less 
satisfaction. 13 Hutcheson, like other writers of his century, supposes 
instead that the mind finds vacuity painful, so that variety is inher- 
ently pleasurable up to a certain rate of perception ; for a given uni- 
formity, the more variety tied together by it the better. Hutcheson's 
position seems to me the only defensible one on this point. 

The more complex problems of beauty are found in relative beauty. 
The beauty of imitations of the unattractive is explained in this sys- 
tem merely in terms of the pleasure of imitation as such. But the no- 
tion of "imitation" is given some breadth by the possibility that imi- 
tation is of intention or idea rather than of a natural object. Artists, 
accordingly, may "not form their Works so as to attain the highest 
Perfection of original Beauty separately considered $ because a Com- 
position of this relative Beauty, along with some degree of the original 
Kind, may give more Pleasure, than a more perfect original Beauty 
separately. Thus we can see that Regularity in laying out of Gardens 
in Parterres, Vista's, parallel Walks, is often neglected to obtain an 
Imitation of Nature even in some of its Wildnesses." M This account 
has the paradoxical consequence that irregularity is enjoyable because 
indicative of design an unnecessary finesse, for the beauty of irregu- 

Francis Hutcheson 29 

lar gardens would be well accounted for merely as imitation o Na- 

Quite generally, perception of fitness and design is a principal 
source of beauty, and treatment of the topic leads Hutcheson into a 
rather intricate argument, "Concerning our Reasonings about De- 
sign and Wisdom in the Cause, from the Beauty or Regularity of 
Effects" or, to put it plainly, natural theology. It is a misreading of 
Hutcheson to see natural theology either as an unwarranted intru- 
sion into the realm of aesthetics or (at the other extreme) as the un- 
derlying basis of his aesthetic system j 15 it is true that to a reflective 
and devout mind all beauty, even original beauty, is relative to a De- 
sign but it is not only relative. 

Although the sense of beauty is subjective, ideal, and connected ar- 
bitrarily with the nature of things by the "Author of our Nature," 
there is nonetheless a standard of taste. This standard is consistent 
with the observed discrepancies of taste among men. For the internal 
sense spontaneously yields pleasures only 5 aesthetic pain arises from 
disappointment (setting aside the function of appearances as natural 
or arbitrary signs of something painful). Men differ in their experi- 
ence, and thus in the cultivation of the sense: what gives unfeigned 
pleasure to the untutored may (through comparison) be excruciating 
to the cultivated. Diversity of fancies arises also from casual associ- 
ations which may make men "have an aversion of Objects of Beauty , 
and a liking to others void of it, but under different Conceptions than 
those of Beauty or Deformity" 1C The term "association" is em- 
ployed by Hutcheson in a rather pejorative sense, to suggest confu- 
sions which falsify the perceptions of sense, distort the passions, or 
mislead the reason. This use of the term (derived from Locke) is 
found also in Lord Kames and in Alison, even though this latter 
bases his entire aesthetics on what Hume would call "association." 
These writers confine the term "association" to the accidental aspect 
of the associative process, and attribute the universal aspect to other 
causes (as in Hutcheson) or discuss it in different terms (as in Ali- 
son) . But even taking the concept of association as Hume understood 
it, it is still of no signal importance in Hutcheson (and of little more 
in Kames), for when original perceptions constitute the bulk of aes- 
thetic experience, there is no need for explanations. Setting aside, 
then, differences in taste resulting from the various degrees of culti- 
vation of the mind and from the casual associations which color our 
perceptions, the principles of aesthetic judgment are universal. Nor 
does "The Power of Custom, Education, and Example, as to Our 

30 Beautiful and Sublime 

Internal Senses" contradict this truth ; for neither custom, nor educa- 
tion, nor example can create a species of sensation de novo all must 
presuppose a natural basis of aesthetic perception. 
. The first inquiry concludes appropriately, in view of the emphasis 
the theory throws upon design with illustration of the final causes. 
Why should Deity have established the arbitrary connection between 
regular objects and our pleasure in them? Why should He have 
created so regular a universe? Limited beings find regularity useful, 
for the economy of life depends upon the uniformity of nature j and 
we owe it to Divine benevolence that interest and utility coincide with 
pleasure. Pleasure, accordingly, is conjoined with regular objects, 
fruitful actions, enlarging theorems, and the universe was created 
regular to satisfy the implanted sense and give scope to virtue. 17 

The "Inquiry concerning Beauty" contains little discussion of moral 
beauty. But the second treatise, and major portions of the third and 
fourth, treat of moral beauty, for virtue is beautiful. Some explication 
of Hutcheson's ethics is requisite to make this clear. Hutcheson's pur- 
pose is to show that some actions and affections are immediately good, 
that by a superior moral sense we have pleasure in contemplating 
them without any view of natural advantage ; and that the incitement 
to virtue is not the intention of securing this pleasure of approbation 
or any other natural good, but a principle entirely different from 
self-love or interest. 18 His analysis uncovers the existence of three 
senses distinct both from the external senses and from the aesthetic 
sense. These are the Pubkck Sense, "our Determination to be pleased 
with the Hafpness of others, and to be uneasy at their Misery"; the 
Moral Sense) by which "we perceive Virtue y or Vice in our selves or 
others" 5 and a Sense of Honour "which makes the A^frobation^ or 
Gratitude of others, for any good Actions we have done, the necessary 
occasion of Pleasure j and their Dislike, Condemnation) or Resent- 
ment of Injuries done by us, the occasion of that uneasy Sensation 
called Shame, even when we fear no further evil from them." 10 
There is also a Sense of Dignity or suitableness to human nature, but 
this may reduce to a modification of the moral sense. 20 Answering to 
each of these senses is a set of desires and aversions: the public sense 
produces a desire of the happiness, and an aversion from the misery, 
of others 5 the moral sense gives us a desire of virtue and an aversion 
from vice; and the sense of honor produces a noble ambition for 
praise and a shrinking from blame. 21 

This apparatus of senses and their correspondent desires enables 
Hutcheson to answer the two leading questions of ethics: What is 

Francis Hutcheson 31 

virtue? Why should I be virtuous? Abstracting from particular hab- 
its or prejudices, "every one is so constituted as to approve every 
particular kind Affection toward any one, which argues no want of 
Affection towards others. And constantly to approve that Temper 
which desires, and those Actions which tend to procure the greatest 
Moment of Good in the Power of the Agent toward the most exten- 
sive System to which it can reach . . . [and consequently] the Per- 
fection of Virtue consists in 'having the universal calm Benevolence, 
the prevalent Affection of the Mind, so as to limit and counteract not 
only the selfish Passions, but even the particular kind Affections.' " 22 
And why should I be virtuous? For three reasons derived from 
three senses. Primarily because my public sense causes me to desire 
the welfare of others, because I feel a calm yet active benevolence ex- 
tending to all mankind. Partly because I wish to be virtuous and thus 
enjoy the pleasurable consciousness of my own merit ; although this 
self-approval follows in any particular instance only if it was not 
sought, reflection on it may lead me to form my character along the 
lines of virtue. Lastly because I desire the praise and gratitude of my 
fellow men, and to be secure of the approbation of Deity. 

It is remarkable that Hutcheson reduces all virtue to benevolence. 
The various internal senses are determinations to feel it or approve 
it or appreciate its reflection from others. All moral affections become 
modifications of love and hatred j talents, abilities, and the cardinal 
virtues of the ancients become instruments, participating in virtue 
when applied benevolently. Hutcheson makes very subtle use, how- 
ever, of so monolithic a system. He argues, for instance, that it is 
better to aid the good than the evil, for we thereby assist in a more 
extensive scheme of benevolence $ and he postulates a regularly grad- 
uated diminution of love as its objects are progressively more remote 
from us, an inverse variation analogous with gravitation and equally 
necessary to the order of the universe. The most virtuous acts, in con- 
sequence of all this, "have the most universal, unlimited Tendency 
to the greatest and most extensive Haziness of all the rational Agents 
to whom our Influence can extend." 23 This truth is represented sym- 
bolically in Hutcheson's well-known mathematical calculus of virtue: 

E _M-I 

wherein "B" is benevolence, "M" the total moment of public good 
accomplished, "I" the moment of personal good, and "A" the abilities 
of the agent. 24 Thomas Reid was provoked by this formula to write 
his first work, "An Essay on Quantity, Occasioned by Reading a 

^a Beautiful and Sublime 

Treatise in Which Simple and Compound Ratios Are Applied to 
Virtue and Merit" (1748). Reid argues that motives and happiness 
are not susceptible of mensuration, so that no mathematical reasoning 
on such subjects can ever advance a step. This is obvious ; but Hutch- 
eson was not really attempting to reason mathematically only to use 
a symbolic notation which would represent his argument more viv- 

In ethics as in aesthetics, Hutcheson stops short in his analysis, 
resting his system upon perceptions and determinations presumed to 
be original. Hume subsequently placed these moral questions within 
a comprehensive system grounded on a precise metaphysics and uni- 
fied by a flexible but consistent philosophic method, and in so doing 
he was led to analyze further the apparently original principles which 
Hutcheson had invoked. By introducing sympathy itself susceptible 
of metaphysical analysis as the first principle of his ethics, Hume 
was able to resolve all of Hutcheson's ethical senses into more ele- 
mental principles and at the same time to escape the exclusive benevo- 
lism of the Hutchesonian ethic. 25 

This conspectus of Hutcheson's ethical theory has been prelim- 
inary to explication of the beauty of virtue, and to this topic I return. 
The beauty of virtue consists in the relation of virtuous dispositions, 
intentions, and actions to the system of sensitive beings. Virtue is the 
cement of the macrocosm, and because it does unite the rational or 
sensitive creation into a system of mutual dependence and compli- 
cated interrelationship, it is beautiful: uniformity in variety. It must 
be granted, to be sure, that this is stretching the flexibility of an ana- 
logical term pretty far.' 

But there is another and more special way in which the beauty of 
the physical and intellectual worlds is united with that of the moral : 
habitual dispositions form the countenance, and the natural form of 
the countenance may also resemble the expression of passion in 
these ways moral beauty is seen as physical beauty, the attributes of 
the significatum being transferred by association to the sign. 

THERE is a further Consideration which must not be pass'd over, 
concerning the EXTERNAL BEAUTY of Persons, which all allow to have 
great Power over human Minds. Now it is some apprehended Morality, 
some natural or imagin'd indication of concomitant Virtue, which gives 
it this powerful Charm above all other kinds of Beauty. Let us con- 
sider the Characters of Beauty, which are commonly admir'd in Coun- 
tenances, and we shall find them to be Sweetness, Mildness, Majesty, Dig- 
nity, Vivacity, Humility, Tenderness, Good-nature, that is, that certain 

Francis Hutches on 33 

Airs, Proportions, je ne seal quofs, are natural Indications of such Vir- 
tues, or of Abilitys or Dispositions toward them. 26 

The same is true of air and motion, which represent such moral qual- 
ities as roughness, gentleness, and so forth. These latter signs, how- 
ever, Hutcheson regards as conventional (unlike Kames and Alison, 
who treat them as for the most part natural). All of these beauties 
are to be distinguished from the moral beauty proper on which they 
ultimately depend that is a question of uniformity in variety. 

It is these moral beauties which play a principal role in literature 
and painting. 

WE shall find the same moral Sense to be the Foundation of the 
chief Pleasures of POETRY. We hinted, in the former Treatise, at the 
Foundation of Delight in the Numbers, Measures, Metaphors, Simili- 
tudes. But as the Contemplation of moral Objects, either of Vice or 
Virtue, affects us more strongly, and moves our Passions in a quite 
different and more powerful manner than natural Beauty, or (what we 
commonly call) Deformity; so the most moving Beautys bear a Rela- 
tion to our moral Sense, and affect us more vehemently than the Rep- 
resentation of natural Objects in the liveliest Descriptions. Dramatic, 
and Efic poetry are entirely addressed to this Sense, and raise our Pas- 
sions by the Fortunes of Characters, distinctly represented as morally 
good, or evil. . . . Where we are studying to raise any Desire, or 
Admiration of an Object really beautiful, we are not content with a 
bare 'Narration, but endeavour, if we can, to present the Object it self, 
or the most lively Image of it. And hence it is that the Efa Poem., or 
Tragedy, give a vastly greater Pleasure than the Writings of Philosophers, 
tho both aim at recommending Virtue?' 1 

Lord Kames's notion of "ideal presence" is here projected, though 
not developed, by Hutcheson j the notion is, indeed, almost certain 
to occur in the psychological analysis of taste. Much, in fact, of 
Kames's theory of tragedy is scattered through the ethical treatises of 
Hutcheson. The "sympathetic emotion of virtue" appears: "When we 
form the Idea of a morally good Action, or see it represented in the 
Drama, or read it in Epicks or Romance, we feel a Desire arising of 
doing the like." 28 The compulsive attraction of pity is remarked, and 
used (together with delight in moral beauty) to account for the en- 
joyment in tragedy: 

... we are not immediately excited by Compassion to desire the Re- 
moval of our own Pain; we think it just to be so affected upon the Occa- 
sion, and dislike those who are not so: but we are excited directly to desire 

o , Beaiitijul and Sublime 

the Relief of the Miserable, and if we see this impossible, we may by Re- 
flection discern it to be vain for us to indulge our Compassion any further; 
and then from Self-love we retire from the Object which occasions our 
Pain, and study to divert our Thoughts. But where there is no such Re- 
flection, People are hurry'd by a natural, kind Instinct, to see Objects of 

Compassion* . . . 

THIS same Principle leads men to Tragedy s, only we are to observe, 
that another strong reason of this, is the moral Beauty of the Characters 
and Actions which we love to behold: for I doubt, whether any Audience 
would be pleas'd, barely to see fictitious Scenes of Misery, if they were 
kept strangers to the moral Quahtys of the Sufferers, or their Characters 
and Actions. 2 * 

It should be remarked also, that Kames's distinction of pleasant (in 
immediate feeling) and agreeable (in objective survey) is made use 
of by Hutcheson: many virtues and passions are painful, yet provide 
a reflex pleasure of self-approval. 30 

? But beauty, even though so broadly and loosely understood by 
Hutcheson, does not embrace all aesthetic pleasure: "GRANDEUR and 
Novelty are two ideas different from Beauty, which often recommend 
Objects to us. The Reason of this is foreign to the present Subject. 
See Spectator, No. 4I2." 31 This acquiescence in the slight treatment 
which Addison accords grandeur and novelty is surprising. Thorpe 
has observed truly that Hutcheson's aesthetics might be expected to 
agree more with Addison's than with Shaftesbury's, since Hutcheson, 
like Addison, is writing in the tradition of Locke. But Thorpe ex- 
aggerates in saying that the treatise on beauty is "the most important 
gloss to Addison's essay that had yet been made." 32 Hutcheson's 
beauty extends through the physical, moral, and intellectual realms, 
whereas Addison's is physical only (albeit he may speak figuratively 
of moral beauty) ; Addison implies internal senses which apprehend 
beauty, grandeur, and novelty, but provides no philosophic justifica- 
tion of this position 5 Addison's beauty appears most vividly in color, 
whereas Hutcheson's is a beauty of form 5 in short, Hutcheson's the- 
ory is part and parcel of a philosophic system, Addison's an expres- 
sion of the taste of an amateur and essayist. 

The real question on Hutcheson's use of Addison is: Why, in sup- 
planting Addison's simple notion of beauty with his own more philo- 
sophical conception, did Hutcheson leave Addison's grandeur and 
aovelty untransformed? Certainly grandeur could be treated so as 
:o pervade not only the physical but also the intellectual and moral 
worlds. The explanation presumably is, that grandeur and novelty do 

Francis Hutches on 35 

'not share with beauty that peculiarly intimate connection with mo- 
rality, and Hutcheson's chief concern was always morals. Certain 
virtues are of course sublime, the lack of connection I point to is 
methodological rather than substantive. Beauty emerges from the re- 
lations of part and part, part and whole, and so, as Hutcheson con- 
ceives it, does morality 5 the senses appropriated to beauty and mo- 
rality are concerned, therefore, with analogous relationships. Gran- 
deur, however, is not susceptible of this kind of analysis, nor does 
investigation of its influence on the mind have any analogy with 
that mode of ethical speculation in which Hutcheson engaged. 

It is conceivable, however, that if Hutcheson's aesthetic thought 
had been more spontaneous and self-dependent, it might in turn have 
shaped his position on ethics. Construction of an aesthetics of sub- 
limity alongside that of beauty might well have meant dissolution 
of the exclusive benevolism of Hutchesonian ethics. Qualities noble 
in themselves might have found place alongside those contributing 
to humanity: courage, intellectual power, and force of will would 
have become virtues rather than instruments. Something of this sort 
appears to have occurred in the thought of Lord Kames: Hutcheson's 
aesthetic sense is fractured into many, each natural and original, and 
the moral senses of Hutcheson are still further divided, with virtue 
no longer confined to benevolence. 

One contemporary of Hutcheson, Charles Louis De Villette, de- 
sired a shift of the theory in the contrary direction towards a still 
closer dependence of beauty on virtue. De Villette's "Essay Philo- 
sophique sur le Beau, & sur le Gout," brought to light by A. O. Al- 
dridge, 33 demands a beauty more obviously identical than Hutche- 
son's in physical and moral subjects. As De Villette thinks, 

j. Un objet est Beau a proportion du degre de Sagesse, c'est a dire 
de Sagacite, de genie, d'habilete, qui se montre dans les moyens neces- 
saries a 1-execution du Dessem, comme sont les combinaisons, les rapports. 

2. En second lieu, & prmcipalement, un objet est Beau a proportion 
du degre de Bienfaisance (de cette Bienfaisance qui concerne, non une 
exemption de Mai, mais un Plaisir actuel, & Positif, un Plaisir tel que je 
1'ai indique) a proportion, dis-je, du degre de Bienfaisance que le Dessein 
etale au Spectateur. 34 

He conceives of beauty as (z) providing a pleasing sensation, physi- 
cal or moral, (2) permitting the patient to see design and benevo- 
lence in the provision of the pleasure, and therefore (5) awakening 
a feeling of love and gratitude, which, together with the other feel- 

36 Beautiful and Sublime 

ings, constitutes the sentiment of beauty. The tendency of this doc- 
trine is to subsume the aesthetic sense under other faculties: physical 
and moral sensation, and intellection, and a mode of piety. The feeling 
of beauty is neither simple nor original, and requires no special sense 
appropriated to it. 35 

The path marked out by Hutcheson himself, no more than that I 
have indicated as a variant not incompatible with Hutcheson's system 
as a whole, was not followed by any disciple. Almost all later writers 
acknowledge the beauty of uniformity in variety, but all subsume 
this beauty in a more comprehensive conception of which it forms but 
a part or aspect j and such transformation is possible only because 
the philosophic basis of aesthetics is shifted or its analytical method 


T>avid Hume 

A THE MOST original, systematic, and subtle thinker of the 
century, David Hume might have commanded a great influence 
over British aesthetic speculation. In formulating an associational psy- 
chology which could be turned to account in aesthetic investigation, 
indeed, his influence was pro found 5 the systems of Gerard and Ali- 
son, and important aspects of the work of the picturesque school, de- 
rive in great measure from Humeian psychology. Most modern 
scholars, to be sure, agree in declaring that Hartley's psychology car- 
ried the day for associationism in aesthetics 5 1 there is, however, no 
external evidence for any decisive influence of Hartley on British 
aestheticians before James Mill, and the internal evidence of such 
systems as Gerard's and Alison's points to Hume instead. Yet though 
these later aestheticians occasionally borrow from or quote him, 
Hume had little direr*" ^flW-fnprm aesthetic discussion. The slight- 
ness of his impact is readily explicable: save for cogent and probing 
analyses of certain special problems, Hume's aesthetics is slender. 
The essay, "Of the Standard of Taste," is the only extended piece 
of Hume's work which is strictly aesthetical in character 3 the es- 
say, "Of Tragedy," and certain sections of A Treatise of Human 
Nature have important aesthetic implications, yet the first is really 
a critical problem the more general aesthetic implications of which 
were not developed by Hume, and the treatment of beauty and sub- 
limity in the Treatise is always ancillary to other discussions. 2 The 
other works contain little of importance. What is attempted here, ac-, 
cordingly, is a concise adumbration of Hume's aesthetic position, so 
far as this can 'be inferred from his writings, together with analyses 
of the two essays, "Of the Standard of Taste" and "Of Tragedy." 3 

A Treatise of Human Nature is an effort to apply inductive tech- 
niques, through observation and introspective experiment, to psy- 


3 8 Beautiful and Sublime 

chology, from which all other sciences depend* the science of "human 
nature" is Hume's metaphysics. Mathematics, natural philosophy, 
and natural religion do not come, except by way of analogy and il- 
lustration, within the scope of Hume's study j for though they are 
ultimately dependent on human nature, deriving from psychology 
their fundamental principles and concepts (space, time, causality, &c.), 
their immediate reference is to external reality. But logic, morals, 
politics, and criticism are branches of the science of human nature it- 

The sole end of logic is to explain the principles and operations of our 
reasoning faculty, and the nature of our ideas: morals and criticism re- 
gard our tastes and sentiments: and politics consider men as united in 
society and dependent on each other. In these four sciences of Logic, 
Morals, Criticism, and Politics, is comprehended almost everything, 
which it can any way import us to be acquainted with, or which can 
tend either to the improvement or ornament of the human mind. 4 

But though Hume treats of logic, morals, and politics at length in 
his essays and treatises, criticism (and this term comprehends, of 
course, the "philosophical criticism" now termed aesthetics) receives 
slight attention, entering the Treatise only incidentally. 

The first principles of Hume's metaphysics are: that the imme- 
diate objects of knowledge are perceptions of the mind, rather than 
the external world itself, that these perceptions are distinguishable 
into impressions and ideas, according as they are more or less vivid 
and lively, and into simple and complex $ "that all our simple ideas in 
their first appearance are deriv'd from simple impressions, which are 
correspondent to them, and which they exactly represent"; 5 that there 
is a "liberty of the imagination to transpose and change its ideas" 
in accordance with the laws which Hume discovers. These compre- 
hensive principles are supplemented in the course of discussion with 
subordinate, or at any rate more confined, principles. 

The aesthetic sentiments, like the moral, are, of course, impressions 
lively originals, not fainter derivatives. They are, moreover, second- 
ary and reflexive impressions, arising in consequence of sensations 
(primary impressions) or ideas. And they are distinguished from the 
passions by their comparative calmness: "Thereflective impressions 
ma y be_<jividftH i'ntn i-wr> IrjnH.^ vi^ the calm and the violent. Of the 
first kind is the sense of beauty and deformity in action, composition, 
and external objects. Of the second are the passions of love and 
hatred, grief and joy, pride and humility." 7 This "beauty and de- 

David Hume 39 

formity in action" is not the visual beauty of motion, but the moral 
beauty of behavior: in the fashion of his age, Hume speaks often of 
the "beauty" of character and behavior, a locution justified for him 
by the important analogy between aesthetic and moral feeling j Hume 
does not, however, intend to identify the two species of emotion: 
"Now there is nothing common to natural and moral beauty . . . 
but this power of producing pleasure. . . ." 8 

The chief treatment of beauty in the Treatise is ancillary to the 
analysis of the passions of pride and humility. Hume is concerned to 
demonstrate that those passions arise from a double relation of im- 
pressions and ideas: a relation between the idea of the object of the 
passion (self) and that of the cause of it (some trait related to self), 
together with a similarity between the passion excited by the cause 
and that of pride or humility, as the case may be. "That cause, which 
excites the passion, is related to the object, which nature has attributed 
to the passion 5 the sensation, which the cause separately produces, is 
related to the sensation of the passion: From this double relation of 
ideas and impressions, the passion is deriv'd." 9 Thus, the idea of per- 
sonal beauty may be connected with the idea of self through con- 
tiguity and cause-and-effect, as being our beauty, and the emotion of 
beauty is pleasant, as is the emotion of pride 3 accordingly, beauty ex- 
cites pride in its possessor. 

This analysis requires that beauty be pleasurable j and such is, in- 
deed, so far the case that "pleasure and pain ... are not only neces- 
sary attendants of beauty and deformity, but constitute their very 
essence." 10 If we examine theories "to explain the difference betwixt 
beauty and deformity," Hume declares, "we shall find that all of 
them resolve into this, that beauty is such an order and construction 
of parts, as either by the primary constitution of our nature, by cus- 
tom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the 
soul." n The three origins of beauty here suggested are really only 
those which Hutcheson had already considered, and those which one 
might expect to find in a psychology employing association as a prin- 
cipal analytical device: there must be some things originally beautiful, 
others beautiful through customary association, others beautiful owing 
to peculiar and arbitrary associations. 

Of the beauties which are such by nature, a further differentiation is 
possible: Hume distinguishes here, as in the case of the virtues, be- 
tween properties which are useful and those which are inherently 
pleasurable. In his moral theory, Hume discovers four classes of 
virtues, classes formed by the intersection of two distinctions that 

40 Beautiful and Sublime 

between useful and immediately pleasurable, that between agent and 
patient. The virtues are useful or agreeable to ourselves or to others ; 
moral sentiments, as Hume puts it, "may arise either from the mere 
species or appearance of characters and passions, or from reflections 
on their tendency to the happiness of mankind, and of particular 
persons. My opinion is, that both these causes are intermixed in our 
judgments of morals 5 after the same manner as they are in our deci- 
sions concerning most kinds of external beauty: Tho' I am also of 
opinion, that reflections on the tendencies of actions have by far the 
greatest influence, and determine all the great lines of our duty." 12 
In the aesthetic realm, where qualities rather than actions and traits 
of character are in consideration, there is no distinction of agent and 
patient, of ourselves and others, and in consequence there are only 
two modes of beauty: the uule and the dulce. And in aesthetics as in 
morals, Hume lays greatest stress on utility: "Most of the works of 
art," he declares, "are esteemed beautiful, in proportion to their fitness 
for the use of man, and even many of the productions of nature derive 
their beauty from that source. Handsome and beautiful, on most 
occasions, is not an absolute but a relative quality, and pleases us by 
nothing but its tendency to produce an end that is agreeable." 13 

Hume insists upon the influence of utility on our ideas of beauty 
more, perhaps, than would be readily justifiable, were it not that 
his discussions of beauty usually occur in contexts which make such 
emphasis appropriate 5 Hume never has occasion to treat of the 
beauty of color and figure as such, but is always considering beauty 
relative to some other circumstance. He remarks, for instance, that 
"nothing renders a field more agreeable than its fertility, and . . . 
scarce any advantages of ornament or situation will be able to equal 
this beauty. ... I know not but a plain, overgrown with furze 
and broom, may be, in itself, as beautiful as a hill covered with vines 
or olive-trees; tho ? it will never appear so to one, who is acquainted 
with the value of each. But this is a beauty merely of imagination, 
and has no foundation in what appears to the senses." 14 But this 
passage occurs as an illustration of the force of sympathy, a discussion 
in its turn contributory to the analysis of love and hatred. Hume 
always concedes, though he has never occasion to treat, a beauty 
inherently pleasurable without reference to utility: "Some species of 
beauty," he observes on one occasion, "especially the natural kinds, 
on their first appearance, command our affection and approbation j 
and where they fail of this effect, it is impossible for any reasoning 

David Hume 41 

to redress their influence, or adapt them better to our taste and 
sentiment." 15 

Monk is led to the conclusion that beauty, for Hume, is "an im- 
personal recognition of the functional perfection of an object, the 
knowledge that it is complete and at least latently purposive." 16 This 
judgment errs in two particulars: it ignores immediate beauty, and 
it confuses utility with fitness. An instrument of torture is purposive, 
yet not beautiful by Hume's criteria. Hume nowhere speaks of the 
beauty of fitness except as conducive to utility and human happiness. 
McCosh, too, overlooks the importance of immediate beauty for 
Hume y troubled by Hume's utilitarianism, he remarks that "the 
aesthetic tastes of one satisfied with such a theory could not have 
been keen, and we do not wonder to find that in the letters written 
during his travels, he never makes a single allusion to a fine statue 
or painting." 17 Hume's insensitivity to the visual arts (to which 
Brunius also testifies) is, perhaps, responsible for some of the limita- 
tions of his theory of beauty. The broad sense in which Hume under- 
stands "utility" must, however, be recalled 5 whatever is instrumental 
to happiness is useful the whole train of social virtues are useful 
and the expressions of countenance imaging them would no doubt 
be ranked by Hume as among the beauties of utility. 

The beauty of utility affects us chiefly indeed, wholly by sym- 
pathy; even when the beautiful object is useful to and being used 
by the judge himself, his appreciation of it is universalized it is 
not his selfish interest which makes the object beautiful, but his de- 
tached view of the object as useful to the employer (who chances to - 
be himself). In such a case one appreciates qua spectator the feelings' 
one has qua user, and it is the former sentiment, not the latter, which ! 
is aesthetic. "In every judgement of beauty, the feelings of the person ' 
affected enter into consideration, and communicate to the spectator 
similar touches of pain or pleasure," 18 and this would be true even 
if the person affected and the spectator were the same. Monk ob- 
serves this disinterestedness of aesthetic judgment and connects it 
with an alleged subjectivity, remarking that Hume, like Kant, re- 
ferred beauty and sublimity to the perceiving mind alone, 19 in con- 
trast with an earlier "tendency to regard the sublime [I suppose also 
the beautiful] as a quality residing in objects, having objective reality 
like the primary characteristics of matter." 20 It appears to me, how- 
ever, that Hume is in accord with both previous and subsequent 
writers of the century in finding the sentiment of beauty within the 

42 Beautiful and Sublime 

perceiving mind and the causes of it without 5 there is no historical 
progression in this viewpoint. 

Hume's treatment of beauty goes no further than this 5 there is 
little subtlety of differentiation (of design from fitness from utility, 
for instance), little analysis of the various classes of associations which 
influence judgments of beauty, no treatment of the mechanisms by 
which the immediate beauties operate. Hume's aesthetics is formed 
of hints and one of the most important of these suggests an analysis 
of sublimity. Following a discussion of the influence o imagination 
on the passions, Hume treats "Of Contiguity and Distance in Space 
and Time." 21 The treatment is conducted in terms of the vivacity 
of ideas and of habits of the imagination and the passions. Ideas of 
objects remote in time or space are faint in proportion to their re- 
moteness, not only because they lose the association to self (through 
which ideas acquire a vicarious vivacity), but because the fancy pro- 
ceeds to their conception through the conception of the intermediate 
objects, a process interrupted by repeated recalling of the fancy to 
the present self. Removal in time, moreover, renders ideas feebler 
than distance in space, for the parts of extension, being united to 
the senses, "acquire an union in the fancy." 22 And thirdly, future 
time has a lesser effect than past, because the fancy tends to run in 
the direction of the passage of time. On this last point it could easily 
be objected, I think, that since ideas of future objects are only fancies, 
while those of objects past may be memories or beliefs, removal into 
the future might weaken our ideas more than remoteness in the past. 

The weakening of conceptions in any of these ways of course 
weakens correspondingly all those practical passions which arise from 
the conceptions: we do not fear what is remote, and so forth. But 
curiously, there is a set of aesthetic emotions admiration and esteem 
as Hume terms them, sublimity as they are usually designated when 
more than usually elevated and intense which run counter to the 
tendency of the imagination, which wax as the conception wanes. In 
accounting for this circumstance, Hume repeats the conventional ob- 
servation that "the mere view and contemplation of any greatness, 
whether successive or extended, enlarges the soul, and gives it a 
sensible delight and pleasure. A wide plain, the ocean, eternity, a suc- 
cession of several ages 5 all these are entertaining objects, and excel 
every thing, however beautiful, which accompanies not its beauty 
with a suitable greatness." 23 In conceiving a remote object, the fancy 
proceeds through conception of the intervening distance, the great- 

David Hume 43 

ness of which excites admiration, which admiration is transferred to 
the associated object. 

A further principle is requisite to explain the superior effect of 
temporal over spatial distance, and of future time to past. This prin- 
ciple is a property of human nature: both the passions and the imagi- 
nation tend to exert their force by opposing obstacles. 

'Tis a quality very observable in human nature, that any opposition 
which does not entirely discourage and intimidate us, has rather a con- 
trary effect, and inspires us with a more than ordinary grandeur and 
magnanimity. In collecting our force to overcome the opposition, we 
invigorate the soul, and give it an elevation with which otherwise it wou'd 
never have been acquainted. . . , 

This is also true in the inverse. Opposition not only enlarges the soul; 
but the soul, when full of courage and magnanimity, in a manner seeks 
opposition. . . , 

Whatever supports and fills the passions is agreeable to us; as on 
the contrary, what weakens and infeebles them is uneasy. As opposition 
has the first effect, and facility the second, no wonder the mind, in 
certain dispositions, desires the former, and is averse to the latter. 24 

The notion of vacuity being painful to the mind is, of course, a 
commonplace $ Du Bos, Lord Kames, and other writers had based 
aesthetic theorems upon it. To Hume the idea is especially congenial, 
since his entire system rests upon distinctions in force or vivacity of 
perception. The tendency of the mind to oppose obstacles appears to 
depend upon this principle: the force of an idea or impression is more 
sensibly felt when resistance is overcome, and forcible perceptions are 
if so facto pleasurable. 25 

The natural tendency of imagination is, through association with 
the phenomena of gravitation, to pursue objects downward; and in 
accordance with the present principle, it counteracts its own tendency 
and rises in aspiration, elevation, and sublimity. 26 In like manner, the 
greater difficulty of forming a conception across an interval of time 
makes temporal distance more impressive than spatial; and the su- 
perior resistance of the past makes antiquity more admirable than fu- 
turity. More precisely, a short remove in time or space weakens our 
emotion by enfeebling the conception without arousing us to overcome 
the difficulty; whereas, a greater remove engages our powers and ex- 
cites admiration. It must be noted that there are other possible causes 
for the sublimity of the past; Dugald Stewart suggests a series of as- 
sociations between antiquity and elevation, associations systematically 

44 DeaunjM ana, suowne 

attractive to Stewart, but which could also be adapted to Hume's po- 
sition without inconsistency, and which would enable Hume to avoid 
the difficulties attending his view of the relative difficulty of con- 
ceiving past and future. 27 

All this is but a fragment of a theory of sublimity, but Hume has 
nonetheless grasped a clue which could have been followed out into 
its ramifying consequences to yield a theory of sublimity systemati- 
cally integrated with a metaphysical psychology. Hume's investiga- 
tion of the faculty which apprehends aesthetic quality is less trun- 
cated: "Of the Standard of Taste," though brief, is pithy. "The great 
variety of Taste, as well as of opinion, which prevails in the world," 
he observes, "is too obvious not to have fallen under every one's ob- 
servation" 5 and this evident variety will "be found, on examination, 
to be still greater in reality than in appearance." 2S For since the very 
terms employed in discussing matters of taste signify praise and 
blame, men necessarily agree, for the most part, on the general prop- 
ositions formed with these terms j while the application of them to 
concrete instances may be radically different: "when critics come to 
particulars, this seeming unanimity vanishes ; and it is found, that 
they had affixed a very different meaning to their expressions." 29 All 
this is opposite to the case in matters of opinion and science: "The dif- 
ference among men is there oftener found to lie in generals than in 
particulars 5 and to be less in reality than in appearance. An explana- 
tion of the terms commonly ends the controversy 5 and the disputants 
are surprized to find, that they had been quarreling, while at bot- 
tom they agreed in their judgment." 30 Hume employs in this con- 
trast one of the fundamental distinctions in his system: the opposition 
of matters of sentiment and taste to matters of opinion and science is 
founded on the distinction of impressions and ideas, and Hume has 
tacitly taken it for granted that feelings of beauty and the reverse are 
essentially impressions, emotions rather than ideas, judgments. 

Parallel to the situation in criticism is that in morals, where again 
all agree as to names that virtue, like beauty, is good but may yet 
disagree on the extension of the names to actual conduct and char- 
acter j this analogy is itself a kind of proof. Amidst such diversities, 
"it is natural for us to seek a Standard of Taste; a rule, by which the 
various sentiments of men may be reconciled 5 at least, a decision, af- 
forded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another." 31 The 
problem of the essay is thus defined. And the direction in which the 
solution is to be found is discovered by meeting the objection, that in 
matters of judgment there is a standard (to wit, "real matter of 

David Hume 45 

fact"), to which disputes may be referred, whereas all sentiments are 
"right," since they are not representative of something outside the 
mind. "Beauty," it is urged, "is no quality in things themselves: It 
exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind 
perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deform- 
ity, where another is sensible of beauty 5 and every individual ought 
to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate 
those of others." 32 

Hume observes very justly that no one really applies this prin- 
ciple in its full latitude, that in practice all admit of a standard even 
while subscribing to the proverb which denies one. It is true that the 
rules of composition (Hume throughout has literature in mind, 
though analogous reasonings would be applicable to the beauties of 
nature or of the other arts) do not depend on relations of ideas, and 
are not susceptible of demonstrative reasoning 5 they depend upon ex- 
perience. Sentiments do not resemble external objects and relations 
(and to this extent the point that all sentiments are equally right is 
just) 5 they are caused by the properties and relations of external ob- 
jects, anH causation is a relation discovery of which depends upon ex- 
perience. 33 The experience here in question is simply the pleasure and 
pain yielded by the different modes and devices of composition j the 
"rules" are nothing but "general observations, concerning what has 
been universally found to please in all countries and in all ages." 34 
If authors appear to please while abrogating the rules, either the 
rules involved are false, or the authors please despite these licences in 
virtue of other beauties conformable to rule. But please whom? one 
may ask. For "though all the general rules of art are founded only 
on experience and on the observation of the common sentiments of 
human nature, we must not imagine, that, on every occasion, the 
feelings of men will be conformable to these rules. Those finer emo- 
tions of the mind are of a very tender and delicate nature, and require 
the concurrence of many favourable circumstances to make them play 
with facility and exactness, according to their general and established 
principles." 35 There is a "relation, which nature has placed between 
the form and the sentiment" a relation of cause and effect but the 
effect, as always, may be obstructed by contrary causes. For the ob- 
ject to make its due impression, there must be a "perfect serenity of 
mind, a recollection of thought, a due attention to the object j if any 
of these circumstances be wanting, our experiment will be fallacious, 
and we shall be unable to judge of the catholic and universal, 
beauty." 36 

4 6 Beautiful and Sublime 

The natural tendency of objective beauties to produce agreeable 
sentiments may in any given case be frustrated 5 but the tendency 
can still be determined "from the durable admiration, which attends 
those works, that have survived all the caprices of mode and fashion, 
all the mistakes of ignorance and envy" quod semper, quod ubique. 
From this test we learn that 

some particular forms or qualities, from the original structure of the 
internal fabric, are calculated to please, and others to displease; and if 
they fail of their effect in any particular instance, it is from some apparent 
defect or imperfection in the organ. ... If, in the sound state of the 
organ, there be an entire or a considerable uniformity of sentiment among 
men, we may thence derive an idea of the perfect beauty, in like manner 
as the appearance of objects in the day-light, to the eye of a man in 
health, is denominated their true and real colour, even while colour is 
allowed to be merely a phantasm of the senses. 37 

This step concludes the demonstration that there is a standard 
which, though subjective in the sense that it depends upon a certain 
adaptation of human nature to the objects of its perceptions, is not 
subjective in the sense that it depends upon individual preference. 
The next stage in the inquiry is to determine what those defects are 
which may deform the taste of individuals. There is first "the want of 
that delicacy of imagination, which is requisite to convey a sensibility 
of those finer emotions," 38 a delicacy illustrated by that well-worn 
story of Sancho Panza's wine-tasting kinsmen. The delicacy of mental 
taste comprises the two abilities this story suggests: sensibility to 
every beauty, and refinement in isolating the various beauties. "Where 
the organs are so fine, as to allow nothing to escape them 5 and at the 
same time so exact as to perceive every ingredient in the composition: 
This we call delicacy of taste, whether we employ these terms in the 
literal or metaphorical sense." 39 The rules of composition are like the 
key and thong of the story they justify the delicacy of the true 
critic. And the false critic can be confounded by the production of 
these rules, for "when we show him an avowed principle of art 5 when 
we illustrate this principle by examples, whose operation, from his 
own particular taste, he acknowledges to be conformable to the prin- 
ciple y when we prove, that the same principle may be applied to the 
present case, where he did not perceive or feel its influence: He must 
conclude, upon the whole, that the fault lies in himself, and that he 
wants the delicacy, which is requisite to make him sensible of every 
beauty and every blemish, in any composition or discourse." 40 

David Hume 47 

But delicacy is not all; practice is requisite to improve vague and 
hesitant responses into "clear and distinct sentiments" wherewith the 
critic "discerns that very degree and kind of approbation or displeas- 
ure, which each part is naturally fitted to produce." 41 Practice, more- 
over, leads inevitably to "comparisons between the several species and 
degrees of excellence," and it is only by comparison that the merit 
of a performance can be assessed. Hume makes the point which 
Hutcheson had made before him, that the coarsest daubing or most 
vulgar ballad is in itself pleasing, and becomes painful only to those 
accustomed to higher merits comparison having its usual influence 
of exaggerating differences. The critic must divest himself, Hume 
continues, of prejudice, setting aside his individual being and peculiar 
circumstances and considering himself as "a man in general." 42 The 
aesthetic attitude thus assumed is very like the attitude Hume sup- 
poses for moral judgment, where we readily distinguish our personal 
interest and response from that universalized response we feel as 
generalized spectator. In the case of criticism, indeed, we must even 
assume the point of view which the performance, though designed 
for a different age and nation, requires. It is good sense which enables 
us to correct, or set aside temporarily, our prejudices and, Hume 
remarks, "in this respect, as well as in many others, reason, if not an 
essential part of taste, is at least requisite to the operations of this 
latter faculty." 43 A competent reason is requisite to judge of the in- 
terrelations of parts in a work, and of their subordinacy to an end. 
Poetry, moreover, "is nothing but a chain of propositions and rea- 
sonings 5 not always, indeed, the justest and most exact, but still plau- 
sible and specious, however disguised by the colouring of the imagi- 
nation." 44 

In short, few are qualified to establish their own sentiment as the 
standard of beauty. "Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, im- 
proved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prej- 
udice, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character 5 and the joint 
verdict of such, wherever they are to be found, is the true standard 
of taste and beauty." 45 The difficulty remaining is to ascertain the cri- 
teria by which such judges may be recognized. This question, how- 
ever, is not perplexed by the difficulties which embarrassed the origi- 
nal issue, the existence of a standard. For we are no longer discussing 
sentiments, with all their subjectivity 3 this is a matter of fact, a ques- 
tion of ideas rather than impressions. Doubt and dispute may persist, 
but the doubts and disputes are of the kind which attend questions 
submitted to the understanding, and the remedy is the usual one of 

48 Beautiful and Sublime 

argumentation. Indeed, these aesthetic questions are decided much 
more readily than scientific, and the authority of literary classics is 
more durable than that of scientific systems. Men of taste, though 
few, acquire an ascendancy which makes their preferences prevail. 

The possibility of determining the standard established, Hume 
concludes by conceding two limitations on the universality of the 
standard: "The one is the different humours of particular men 5 the 
other, the particular manners and opinions of our age and country." 4e 
All diversities in the internal frame of men are not indicative of de- 
fect or perversion: "It is plainly an error in a critic, " Hume declares, 
"to confine his approbation to one species or style of writing, and 
condemn all the rest. But it is almost impossible not to feel a predi- 
lection for that which suits our particular turn and disposition. Such 
preferences are innocent and unavoidable, and can never reasonably 
be the object of dispute, because there is no standard, by which they 
can be decided." 47 In like manner, we are inevitably more touched 
by representations of life which resembles that of our own age and 
country. Where the disconformity consists only in customs or in spec- 
ulative opinions, full allowance should be made, and we should ac- 
commodate our judgments to the work 5 but where the principles of 
morality and decency alter from age to age, though we may excuse 
the poet we cannot relish the composition. 

The drift of Hume's argument, taken as a whole, is contrary to 
the purpose of Hutcheson. Hutcheson's effort was to establish a dis- 
tinct sense of beauty, whereas Hume endeavors to get the issue out 
of the realm of impressions and into that of judgment and ideas. So 
little, however, has the import of Hume's argument been grasped, 
that Scott could pronounce Hume's discussion "almost a reproduction 
of Hutcheson's early work," 48 and Wilson O. Clough could say that 
"Hume, thorough-going rationalist, tried to bring taste and the arts 
under reason and good sense, but had finally to accept the subjective 
criteria of feeling and sensibility." 49 No philosophical critic of the 
eighteenth century was an antinomian in taste ; all establish a stand- 
ard, and the only problem is to determine how the standard is estab- 
lished within the context of each system. 

The essay "Of Tragedy" is devoted to explanation of the appar- 
ently "unaccountable pleasure, which the spectators of a well-written 
tragedy receive from sorrow, terror, anxiety, and other passions, that 
are in themselves disagreeable and uneasy." 50 Solution of this crux, 
a, part of the more general aesthetic problem of imitations of dis- 

David Hume 49 

pleasing originals, was repeatedly attempted by critics and aestheti- 
cians of the eighteenth century 5 no explanation of the narrower prob- 
lem, the pleasure from tragedy, was more ingenious and systematic 
than Hume's. Hume makes subtle use of the principles of inductive 
reasoning developed in the Treatise of Human Nature; much artful 
logic is concealed in an apparently casually structured essay. 51 

It is a paradox that painful passions should be the cause of pleasure 
in a tragedy 5 but that they are so is incontestable, since the more 
keenly we are afflicted by them, the greater is our enjoyment. Hume's 
solution comprises three steps: determination of the conditions which 
a solution must meet, development of an hypothesis conforming to 
those requirements, and inductive verification of the hypothesis. 

The Abbe Du Bos had attacked the enigma by noting that a certain 
enjoyment accompanies any action or passion which occupies the mind 
and prevents disagreeable vacuity; 52 Hume himself had recourse to 
this principle in the Treatise, and "Of Tragedy" confirms the account. 
But Hume suggests a difficulty "in applying to the present subject, 
in its full extent, this solution" for the theory does not account for 
the very fact here to be explained, that what is displeasing in reality 
may be pleasurable in imitation. 53 The solution must, in short, be 
found in something differentiating art from life. The theory of Fon- 
tenelle attempts just that. 54 Arguing that pleasure and pain, so differ- 
ent as effects, may proceed from related causes (moderated pain, e.g., 
yields pleasure), Fontenelle is able to show why the excitement of 
the mind is still pleasing in the theater even when the passions would 
be painful in real life. For the half-awareness of fiction moderates 
the pain, reducing the affliction to a point where the emotion is 
pleasurable; in real life, however, no reflection (even, I presume, on 
our comparative security) can render grief agreeable. This reasoning 
is much like arguments employed by Hume at several points in the 
Treatise. " ? Tis only in dramatic performances and in religious dis- 
courses," he declares ironically, "that [fear and terror] ever give 
pleasure. In these latter cases the imagination reposes itself indo- 
lently on the idea; and the passion, being softened by the want of 
belief in the subject, has no more than the agreeable effect of enliven- 
ing the mind, and fixing the attention." 55 -But the theory appealing to 
the nature of poetical belief fails of full explanation, for it rests the 
difference in effect on the degree of belief accorded the affecting 
scenes, whereas, Hume argues, events of a really distressing nature 
may be pleasantly exciting in oratorical presentation which is fully 

50 Beautiful and Sublime 

believed the more vividly the rhetorician puts before us the afflict- 
ing circumstances, the less we are aware of their remoteness, the more 
we are pleasurably stirred. 

The evidence thus far adduced indicates that the cause of the para- 
doxical pleasure of tragedy must be something common to rhetoric 
and poetic, and some common differentia of both from reality. This 
statement of the problem precludes not only the solutions traditional 
before Hume but also most of those developed after or in opposition 
to his own. The hypothesis that tragedy pleases by suggesting our own 
comparative security has a history reaching back to Lucretius and had 
in modern times the authority of Hobbes; 56 yet Hume does not con- 
descend to refute it. Given Hume's problem, the theory is irrelevant, 
for (in its unelaborated form, at least) it does not entail any differen- 
tiation of art from life 5 indeed, consciousness of our security would 
be yet greater in real than in imitated distress. Had Hume taken up 
this notion, I presume that he would have argued that a satisfaction 
stemming from comparison of our state with that which we observe 
would disappear as sympathy becomes more acute 5 the influence of 
comparison runs always counter to that of sympathy. 57 Yet our pleas- 
ure in tragic representations increases with the degree of sympathy 
felt a circumstance which is a conclusive refutation of the theory in 
question. Nor could Hume assent to an explanation grounding our 
enjoyment on an instinctive delight in compassion a notion advanced 
by Burke, Adam Smith, Blair, Lord Kames, Bishop Hurd, Campbell, 
and a host of lesser lights 5 all the variants of this theory have a com- 
mon failing: without further development, they do not account for 
any difference in our reactions to tragedy and to real situations. As 
Hume observed dryly in a letter to Adam Smith, "It is always 
thought a difficult Problem to account for the Pleasure, receivd from 
the Tears & Grief & Sympathy of Tragedy $ which woud not be the 
Case, if all Sympathy was agreeable. An Hospital woud be a more 
entertaining Place than a Ball." 58 In the same fashion, the various 
moral feelings aroused admiration of courageous resistance to mis- 
fortune, &c. are not pertinent to this problem. 

What, then, is to resolve the paradox? Hume notes that in a rhetor- 
ical description of a melancholy or terrifying episode we find pleasure 
in (i) apprehension of the talents and faculties of the rhetorician 
his art in assembling details, his judgment in combining, his genius 
in presenting them and in (2) the beauties of the rhetoric itself 
the language and force of expression. These pleasures of art exceed 

David Hume 51 

the pain of the melancholy passions suggested by the subject (which, 
though believed in perhaps, is not before our senses), and by this 
predominance "convert" the excitement of the distressful emotions 
to their own aggrandizement. 

The impulse or vehemence, arising from sorrow, compassion, indigna- 
tion, receives a new direction from the sentiments of beauty. The latter, 
being the predominant emotion, seize the whole mind, and convert the 
former into themselves, at least tincture them so strongly as totally to 
alter their nature. And the soul, being, at the same time, rouzed by 
passion, and charmed by eloquence, feels on the whole a strong move- 
ment, which is altogether delightful. 59 

This account will a fortiori explain the effects of tragedy, wherein the 
pleasure arising from detection of imitation is added to the sources 
of pleasure common to rhetoric and poetic. The weakened belief in 
tragedy may also have its influence 5 but it is necessary in any case 
to combine the charms of genius with the excitements of the subject. 
Conversion of the passions, this change of a passion into another, 
even an opposite, passion under the influence of a predominating 
emotion, is not a notion developed ad hoc by Hume for the sake of 
constructing an ingenious theory of tragedy. The Treatise discusses 
conversion in three passages. It is mentioned rather incidentally in 
the explanation of unnatural malice against oneself: a man enjoying a 
pleasure while a friend suffers is made uneasy by the contrast and 
surrenders his pleasure j such comparison would ordinarily lead to 
self-gratulation and an accession of pleasure, save that "as grief is 
here supposed to be the predominant passion, every addition falls to 
that side, and is swallowed up in it, without operating in the least upon 
the contrary affection." 60 A more general account of conversion is 
found in the section treating "Of the Causes of the Violent 
Passions": "'Tis a remarkable property of human nature," Hume 
observes, "that any emotion, which attends a passion, is easily con- 
verted into it, tho y in their natures they be originally different from, 
and even contrary to each other" 5 and he distinguishes this process 
from the production of one passion out of another through the double 
relation of impressions and ideas. 61 Hume discriminates finally, in 
treating "Of the Direct Passions," three other modes of rencounter 
between passions: alternation when they arise from different objects, 
cancellation when the same object provokes opposite passions, mixture 
in a new passion when the same object produces different emotions 

52 Beautiful and Sublime 

but is of uncertain probability. Conversion into the predominant pas- 
sion, Hume observes, commonly arises at the first shock of conflicting 
passions. 62 

The conversion of painful feelings by artistry and beauty satisfies 
the two conditions for a solution to the problem "Of Tragedy" : it is 
common to art and rhetoric, and differentiates both from actuality. 
Adducing the effects of artistry, imitation, and beauty is, of course, no 
novelty in the theory of tragedy 5 what is new is that Hume conceives 
these elements not as merely counterbalancing the disturbing pas- 
sions of pity and fear, but as transforming those passions into a new 
pleasure. Conversion explains the effect of tragedy "by an infusion 
of a new feeling, not merely by weakening or diminishing the sor- 
row." ea It must be stressed that Hume's hypothesis does not intellec- 
tualize art: the influence of artistry need not be consciously recog- 
nized 5 these are pleasures of the imagination, felt intuitively, not 
calculations of judgment (though of course judgment may make us 
aware of circumstances which permit our taste to respond). Refuta- 
tions of Hume's theory, both in the eighteenth century and today, 
commonly overthrow a view which Hume did not advance. 64 

Hume's analysis, traced this far, is only an hypothesis ; confirma- 
tion is requisite, and the confirmation Hume finds is appropriate to 
his system. "To explain the ultimate causes of our mental actions is 
impossible," he remarks early in the Treatise; " 'tis sufficient if we 
can give any satisfactory account of them from experience and anal- 
ogy. 33 65 Finding analogies to the cause-effect sequence here being 
studied is, then, the most efficient confirmation. The instances Hume 
brings forward to "afford us some insight into the analogy of nature" 
are carefully selected and arranged to constitute a complete induction. 
'The first group of instances includes the effects of novelty, of curi- 
osity and impatience, of the encountering of difficulties, all which 
tend to enhance whatever predominant passion they accompany, 
whether agreeable or distressing. Painful feelings are converted into 
pleasurable more strikingly in another set of instances when anxiety 
for a sickly child increases affection for it, when death of a friend en- 
hances appreciation of him, when loneliness in absence, or jealousy, 
reinforces love. Next the cases in which the principle operates con- 
trariwise, so that, aesthetic pleasures being subordinated to painful 
passions, the pleasure is converted to augmentation of the painful 
feelings: as (in tragedy) when excess of horror or mere passive suf- 
fering convert the pleasures of imagination into augmentation of 
horror or disturbing compassion. In one of his infrequent discussions 

David Hume 53 

of painting, Hume here observes that painters have been "very un- 
happy in their subjects" having chosen either the "ghastly mythol- 
ogy" of Christianity or the implausible fictions of Ovid. Hume rates 
the power of light, color, and form perhaps too low j the visual beauty 
of painting can convert more disagreeable feelings than Hume con- 
cedes. Hume does not attempt application of the theory of conversion 
to imitations of the ugly and disgusting, I am inclined to think, 
that, in painting at least, imitation of ugly or disgusting originals does 
not yield a conversion, the mind not being stirred as by the terrific or 
pathetic, and the unpleasantness of the original being simply sub- 
ducted from the beauty of the representation. 66 

Conversion is reversed when the subordinate passion becomes the 
predominant: "Too much jealousy extinguishes love: Too much dif- 
ficulty renders us indifferent: Too much sickness and infirmity dis- 
gusts a selfish and unkind parent." 67 Hume's final instance presents 
the common-life equivalent of a tragedy a gloomy story unadorned 
with the embellishments of art and genius, and conveying only a 
disturbing uneasiness. Investigation of the inadequate conjectures of 
other writers had enabled Hume to present his own more complete 
and adequate hypothesis 3 he had established the reality of conversion 
of the passions, and by close analogies had given strong support to 
his conjecture 5 what remained was to suggest that the addition of im- 
agination, art, and judgment, expressive force and numbers, and imi- 
tative verisimilitude to a subject dismal and unpleasant, does in fact 
convert uneasiness to enjoyment. 


"William Hogarth 

ONLY aesthetic treatise of the quarter-century between 
JL Hutcheson's Inquiry (1725) and Burke's Sublime and Beauti- 
ful (1757) fame of which has survived into the twentieth century is 
William Hogarth's The Analysis of Beauty. The story behind the 
publication of the Analysis in 1753 of the curiosity aroused by Ho- 
garth's self-portrait of 1745 with "The LINE of BEAUTY And 
GRACE," wiry and golden, resting on his palette, curiosity kept up 
by a print of the portrait in 1749 and whetted by the subscription 
ticket for the Analysis in 1752, which featured an engraving of "Co- 
lumbus Breaking the Egg," cleverly apposite to Hogarth's solution 
of the enigma of beauty all this has been told before. 1 But though 
Columbus, in setting the broken egg on end, might confound the 
sceptic and humble the proud, Hogarth met with no such luck. Ridi- 
cule as well as applause greeted his theory 5 in several of a maliciously 
witty series of prints from the hand of Paul Sandby, Hogarth was 
represented as Painter Pugg in mockery of the bellicose insularity 
Hogarth had displayed in his own satirical attacks on the vogue for 
Italian art and which led him to set his British pug beside his own 
likeness in the picture of 1745, that likeness itself resting on volumes 
of Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift. Pugg's studio windows are closed 
by shutters labeled "Pour Raphael," "Pour Rubens," "Pour Rem- 
brandt" to exclude any gleam from the genius of those masters ; 
the imp of vanity whispers in his ear j he draws from hideously gro- 
tesque models whose curves caricature the line of grace 5 a bust of 
Raphael is desecrated as his wig block ; and more of the same. 2 

But among the major aestheticians of the next half-century Ho- 
garth's theory was accorded the same sort of recognition as Hutche- 
son's: it was taken, that is, as true of a limited class of aesthetic phe- 
nomena, but subsumed into theories represented as more comprehen- 


William Hogarth 55 

sive. Such subsumption in the hands of Burke and Gerard, Reynolds 
and Alison was accomplished, however, only by shifting the surviv- 
ing parts of Hogarth's doctrine onto new philosophic bases different 
from, and indeed incompatible with, those which for Hogarth him- 
self had justified his as a complete theory of beauty. 

Until quite recently the Analysis has been curiously ignored in 
modern scholarship on the eighteenth century. Lives and critiques , 
of Hogarth fill a library shelf, yet none has offered more than cur- 
sory remarks about the Analysis; and the learned journals, though 
they bulge with articles on Hogarth the artist, ignore Hogarth the 
aesthetician. 3 Typical of the prevailing attitude, perhaps, is Marjorie 
Bowen's remark that the Analysis "is a very curious production, now 
no more than a literary curiosity. . . . That so great a painter could 
really have seriously concerned himself with the odd theories put 
forward in this book is not to be believed." 4 A new and elaborate edi- 
tion by Joseph Burke has, however, supplied this defect; Peter Quen- 
nelPs study of Hogarth attends seriously to Hogarth's theory 5 and 
it is unlikely that commentators can in future ignore it. 

The Preface to The Analysis of Beauty, indeed, may seem to de- 
serve some of the ridicule which has been heaped upon the book. Ho- 
garth recites at length, as saving him "the trouble of collecting an 
historical account of these arts among the ancients," 5 Le Blon's fab- 
ulous notion that the Greeks possessed a secret and mysterious rule 
or "analogy" brought by Pythagoras from Chaldea or Egypt. Though 
a commonplace of Hogarth's age, and even pretty good art history 
for the period, this notion gives the Preface an air of buncombe for 
the modern ahistorical reader. But the treatise itself is free of such 
crotchets, and ought to be considered even by hostile critics as a seri- 
ous and significant theory, unique in important respects among the 
British systems of the eighteenth century. 

"I now offer to the public," Hogarth declares, "a short essay, ac- 
companied with two explanatory prints, in which I shall endeavour 
to shew what the principles are in nature, by which we are directed to 
call the forms of some bodies beautiful, others ugly 3 some graceful, 
and others the reverse ; by considering more minutely than has hith- 
erto been done, the nature of those lines, and their different combina- 
tions, which serve to raise in the mind the ideas of all the variety of 
forms imaginable." 8 He appeals to a disinterested audience, neither 
of fashionable connoisseurs nor of painters; those, he concludes, "who 
have no bias of any kind, either from their own practice, or the les- 
sons of others, are fittest to examine into the truth of the principles 

56 Beautiful and Sublime 

laid down in the following pages." 7 Such appeal is not merely an 
expression of Hogarth's pique at a fashionable cant of criticism ; it 
implies a philosophic standpoint. Implicit in Hogarth's statements 
is the priority of nature to art as an object of aesthetic analysis j the 
fault with painters and connoisseurs is that by having "espoused and 
adopted their first notions from nothing but imitations, and becoming 
too often as bigotted to their faults, as their beauties, they at length, 
in a manner, totally neglect, or at least disregard the works of nature, 
merely because they do not tally with what their minds are so strongly 
prepossessed with." 8 The beginning with nature, or with what is 
common to nature and art, is characteristic of an analytic philosophy j 
the peculiarities of art can then be accounted for by a study of the 
effects of imitation. The approach always strives to separate the dif- 
ferent elements contributing to aesthetic eff ect, and to relate them in- 
dividually to the powers or sensibilities of the mind with which they 

f And so with the linear analysis which Hogarth promises. The ele- 
ment of which wholes IreTomposed is for Hogarth the line 5 accord- 
ingly, the Introduction to the Analysis explains at some length the 
fashion in which volume can be seen lineally: 

In order to my being well understood, let every object under our 
consideration, be imagined to have its inward contents scoop'd out so 
nicely, as to have nothing of it left but a thin shell, exactly correspond- 
ing both in its inner and outer surface, to the shape of the object itself: 
and let us likewise suppose this thin shell to be made up of very fine 
threads, closely connected together, and equally perceptible, whether 
the eye is supposed to observe them from without, or within 5 and 
we shall nd the ideas of the two surfaces of this shell will naturally 
coincide. . . . [The] oftner we think of objects in this shell-like man- 
ner, we shall facilitate and strengthen our conception of any particular 
part of the surface of an object we are viewing, by acquiring thereby a 
more perfect knowledge of the whole, to which it belongs: because the 
imagination will naturally enter into the vacant space within this shell, 
and there at once, as from a center, view the whole form within, and 
mark the opposite corresponding parts so strongly, as to retain the idea 
of the whole, and make us masters of the meaning of every view of the 
object, as we walk round it, and view it from without. 9 

This is manifestly a highly artificial technique, for it does away with 
all conception of solidity, and reduces perception of surface to a 
strange complication of perceptions of line. Hogarth conceives a 
sphere as "an infinite number of straight rays of equal lengths, issu- 

Wdliam Hogarth 57 

ing from the center . . . and circumscribed or wound about at their 
other extremities with close connected circular threads, or lines, form- 
ing a true spherical shell." 10 Actually (as I think) a sphere is con- 
ceived as a surface of which the lighting varies in a certain fashion or 
which provides certain tactile sensations 5 the reduction of this com- 
paratively simple impression to a multitude of ideas of lines requires 
a positive effort of imagination. Nevertheless, this forced way of re- 
garding objects does have the advantage which interests Hogarth of 
permitting evolution of all possible views from a single image. The 
artist thus "arrives at the knack of recalling [even the most irregular 
figures] . . . into his mind when the objects themselves are not be- 
fore him." n This technique, then, duly elaborated, is part of the 
technical memory or visual grammar of which Hogarth speaks in his 
autobiographical fragments j the reduction of figures, attitudes, and 
actions to combinations of elementary lines is another part of this 

With this hint of his linear analysis by way of introduction, Ho- 
garth enters upon his main subject by undertaking to consider 

the fundamental principles, which are generally allowed to give elegance 
and beauty, when duly blended together, to compositions of all kinds 
whatever; and point out to my readers, the particular force of each, in 
those compositions in nature and art, which seem most to please and en- 
tertain the eye> and give that grace and beauty, which is the subject of 
this enquiry. The principles I mean, are FITNESS, VARIETY, UNIFORM- 
in the production of beauty , mutually correcting and restraining each 
other occasionally** 

Fitness is first both as prior in nature and as indispensable. It has 
been remarked by Joseph Burke that Hogarth drew on Xenophon's 
Memorabilia for some of his remarks on fitness, and perhaps con- 
ceived his idea for the print, "The Statuary's Yard, 33 from Socrates' 
visit to the sculptor Cleiton. 13 The debt is likely 5 but, in general, it 
must be affirmed that Socrates' discussion is undertaken for a differ- 
ent purpose, rests on different presuppositions, employs a different 
method, and evolves a doctrine with only partial or accidental simi- 
larities to Hogarth's. Socrates, for instance, declares that "all things 
are good and beautiful in relation to those purposes for which they 
are well adapted, bad and ugly in relation to those for which they 
are ill adapted," an identification of beauty and fitness which Ho- 
garth could by no means accept 5 or ; in his visit to Parrhasius, Socra- 

58 Beautiful and Sublime 

tes argues for imitation of the soul, not merely of the physical form, 
and repeats this demand in talking with Cleiton but this is an aspect 
of beauty which only indirectly and accidentally enters Hogarth's 
theory. 14 There is at any rate nothing Socratic in the development 
Hogarth gives to his ideas, and the theory into which they are fitted 
is wholly unlike any classical theory. Fitness, for Hogarth, is not the 
whole of beauty but a material cause of it necessary, but sufficient of 
itself for only a very moderate degree of beauty. Its principal influ- 
ence, in fact, is in modifying unqualified beauty into "characteristic" 
beauties adapted to particular circumstances. It must be noted that 
beauty of fitness does not depend on appreciation of the concord be- 
tween part and function considered qua concord in the manner of 
Hutcheson, who reduced fitness analogically to a special instance of 
uniformity in variety 5 rather, it is a pleasure transferred by associa- 
tion from the "mind" (i.e., from the cognition of fitness) to the "eye" 
(the apparently simple perception of the object). 

Variety yields a more positive beauty than does fitness: 

All the senses delight in it, and equally are averse to sameness. The 
ear is as much offended with one even continued note, as the eye is 
with being fix'd to a point, or to the view of a dead wall. 

Yet when the eye is glutted with a succession of variety, it finds relief 
in a certain degree of sameness; and even plain space becomes agreeable, 
and properly introduced, and contrasted with variety, adds to it more 

I mean here, and every where indeed, a composed variety ; for variety 
uncomposed, and without design, is confusion and deformity. 15 

The psychology supposed here, that the sense, or the attention, de- 
lights in a moderate degree of exertion, a mean between vacuity and 
distraction, is pretty generally assumed among eighteenth-century 
aestheticians, and is a truism comparatively independent of philo- 
sophic system. 

Hogarth's statements about variety have sometimes a paradoxical 
air because he tends to include much of regularity in variety: his va- 
riety is "composed." Regularity considered in itself, rather than as a 
relief to or as the composition of variety, is pleasing only as sugges- 
tive of fitness: "If the uniformity of figures, parts, or lines were truly 
the chief cause of beauty, the more exactly uniform their appearances 
were kept, the more pleasure the eye would receive: but this is so far 
from being the case, that when the mind has once been satisfied, that 
the parts answer one another, with so exact an uniformity, as to pre- 

William Hogarth 59 

serve to the whole the character of fitness to stand, to move, to sink, 
to swim, to fly, &c. without losing the balance: the eye is rejoiced 
to see the object turn'd, and shifted, so as to vary these uniform ap- 
pearances." ie Regularity often pleases, to be sure, in forms merely 
decorative, as in a molding 5 but as Hogarth does not usually dis- 
tinguish design from fitness from utility such regularities are still 
comprehended in what he terms fitness. Apart from fitness, he de- 
clares, "regularity and sameness ... is want of elegance and true 
taste." 17 

Umformity_and variety are not, properly speaking, contraries for 
Hogarth, for although they vary in inverse proportion, the problem 
is not to strike a mean but to secure the maximum "composed vari- 
ety," given as prerequisite that kind and degree of regularity needed 
to fit an object for its end. The "uniformity" of Hutcheson's theory 
is found in Hogarth fractured into the composition of variety, the 
symmetry or regularity indicative of fitness, and simplicity, fourth of 
Hogarth's principles. There is for Hogarth no peculiar sense adapted 
to perceiving uniformity in variety, for the different modes of that 
union are pleasing from different principles. 

Simplicity is agreeable because of its influence in facilitating per- 
ception: "Simplicity, without variety, is wholly insipid, and at best 
does only not displease 5 but when variety is join'd to it, then it 
pleases, because it enhances the pleasure of variety, by giving the eye 
the power of enjoying it with ease." 18 

The pleasure of intricacy arises from the instinctive love of pur- 
suit, from the delight in moderate exertion: "The active mind is ever 
bent to be employed. Pursuing is the business of our lives 5 and even 
abstracted from any other view, gives pleasure. Every arising diffi- 
culty, that for a while attends and interrupts the pursuit, gives a sort 
of spring to the mind, enhances the pleasure, and makes what would 
else be toil and labour, become sport and recreation." 19 Intricacy of 
form is defined, accordingly, as "that peculiarity in the lines, which 
compose it, that leads the eye a wanton kind, of chace y and from the 
pleasure that gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful: and 
it may be justly said, that the cause of the idea of grace more imme- 
diately resides in this principle, than in the other five, except variety j 
which indeed includes this, and all the others." 20 Variety includes the 
others only in that they are insufficient to produce beauty without 
it, and serve as prerequisites or limits or reliefs to it 3 intricacy, of 
course, is only a special mode of variety. 

Although Hogarth constantly speaks of "the eye" finding pleasure 

60 Beautiful and Sublime 

in this or that, it is doubtful whether he always intends these locu- 
tions quite literally. The pleasure of intricacy is not, properly speak- 
ing, a pleasure of the sense 5 it stems from satisfaction of a natural 
appetite through use of the eye, and the pleasure only appears to per- 
tain to the organ of sight. It does seem evident, however, that Ho- 
garth thought that the eye followed a line with a movement dupli- 
cating the course of the line: "we shall always suppose some such 
principal ray moving along with the eye, and tracing out the parts of 
every form we mean to examine in the most perfect manner . . ." 
and so forth. 21 He speaks also of "pleasing vibrations of the optic 
nerves" produced by light and shadow, 22 and has other curious physi- 
ological notions, most noteworthy the anatomy he devises in explain- 
ing the color of the skin. 23 Eye movements are really staccato, but 
the attention the mind's eye is not conscious of the discrete move- 
ments of the organ, and Hogarth's view will stand if we convention- 
ally interpret it to refer to the attention rather than to the organic 
eye. 24 

last of the principles of beauty, is of course associated 
with sublimity. And Hogarth concedes a sublimity independent of 
beauty: "Forms of magnitude, although ill-shaped, will however, on 
account of their vastness, draw our attention and raise our admira- 
tion. . . . [But] when forms of beauty are presented to the eye in 
large quantities, the pleasure increases on the mind, and horror is 
soften'd into reverence." 25 The moral associations of sublimity are 
not analyzed by Hogarth 5 the independence from moral feeling is in 
fact one of the striking traits of Hogarth's aesthetic. Even the sub- 
limity of the human form is treated formally 5 true greatness (Ho- 
garth does not use the term "sublimity") stems from proportion 
rather than from quantity merely. Elucidation of the peculiar excel- 
lence of the Apollo Belvedere demonstrates that "greatness of pro- 
portion must be considered, as depending on the application of quan- 
tity to those parts of the body where it can give more scope to its 
grace in movement, as to the neck for the larger and more swan- 
like turns of the head, and to the legs and thighs, for the more ample 
sway of all the upper parts together." 26 This analysis thus reduces 
greatness to the same principles from which beauty depends, and 
which are discussed below. Curiously, Hogarth digresses into an ac- 
count of the ridiculous in the midst of his treatment of quantity the 
transition hinging upon the circumstance that exaggerated quantity 
may become absurd. The ridiculous depends partly on the conception 
of impropriety and incongruity (which in Hogarth's loose and gen- 
eral way of speaking are modes of ijnfitness), partly on merely linear 

WiLliam Hogarth 6 1 

factors: "When improper, or incompatible excesses meet, they always 
excite laughter; more especially when the forms of those excesses are 
inelegant, that is, when they are composed of unvaried lines." 2T It is 
characteristic of Hogarth's aesthetic that he should not trace out 
the associations which render regular curves and unvaried lines ridicu- 
lous in the human face and figure. 28 

These six principles are the substructure of the theory: fitness is a 
prior condition, quantity a supervening excellence, and the rest are 
all modifications of variety intricacy being a mode, and uniformity 
and simplicity limits, of variety. That variety in which Hogarth is 
interested is linear. Line is progressively more various as we advance 
from straight and "circular" lines through those partly straight and 
partly circular, through the waving line with its reverse curve, to the 
serpentine line, which, varying in three dimensions, "hath the power 
of super-adding grace to beauty." 29 It is the waving line alone which 
is properly entitled "the line of beauty" ; the serpentine line is "the 
line of grace," and is of a higher order. 

Analysis of beauty in terms of the waving or serpentine line natu- 
rally arises with the Baroque, and is found, without systematic elabo- 
ration, in Lomazzo and various other writers before Hogarth. 80 
Hogarth's theory affords a rationale for baroque, or, as Joseph Burke 
has well argued, especially for rococo art. Nonetheless, it would be 
an error to suppose that the theory is merely a rationalization for a 
style fashionable in Hogarth's age. Not soj the^ergenti^ 
(or not primarily) a grand compositional Iine 3> ^dictating, the sweep. 
and order of an entire canvas it is a line found injh 

of drapery or a curl of hair, in the gesture, of a ixaadx>r, the^tajice jD r f 
a figure. It is not confined (I use W6lfflin y s terminology) to the Ba- 
roque but is found, too, in the Renaissance style, even in that of the 

w-A vra , IJttu ^j^. r ^ ja .,, 1 ' - **-* - ' *- ***.-*. * i *** ' u-f ,,-M* P4-l i t r 

quattrocento in Botticelli as in Rembrandt, in Fra Angelico as in 
Velasquez. And no style has more of Hogarthian beauty and grace 
than Raphael's a style quintessentially Renaissance. It is true, as 
Burke has argued, 31 that Hogarth neither much approved in theory 
nor much followed in practice the linear manner, the closed form, the 
clear presentation, the planar composition of the Renaissance style ; 
but the serpentine line can still be found in a picture symmetrical, 
frontal, and planar. . ^ 

The problem oF-cjqmpoatQtaL. is (fitness apart) one of employing 
various kinds of lines in various relations one to another, yet without 
destroying simplicity: "In a word, it may be said, the art of compos- 
ing well, is the art of varying well." 32 What is remarkable in Ho- 
garth's treatment of composition is that whether he is discussing a 

62 Beautiful and Sublime 

candlestick or St. Paul's, he handles the problem in terms of his sim- 
1 pie linear analysis. The connotative aspects of ckungositi^n, the vari- 
ous classes of associations which qualify our reactions to objects and 
their qualities and relations, are scarcely mentioned and the occa- 
sional reference to such associations seems an intrusion unwarranted 
by any systematic necessity. Hogarth has properly no place for such 
judgments except through elaboration of his notion of "fitness," and 
this consideration alone is not adequate to the whole range of moral 
association. We see distinctly what is left out in Hogarth when we 
think of Ruskin, whose emphasis is almost wholly on the kinds of 
considerations excluded from Hogarth's system. Yet the intrusion of 
moral association is nonetheless discernible even in Hogarth's purely 
formal criteria. The precise line of beauty, for instance, is distin- 
guished from those lines which, insufficiently curving, are "mean and 
poor," and from those of excessive curvature, which are "gross and 
clumsy." 38 "Mean" and "gross" are terms not literally applicable to 
the influence of variety on the sense or the attention: they suggest, 
alongside this physiological effect, moral associations. Attitude and 
action exhibit the same fusion of moral and formal qualities, for the 
graceful is found to be also the genteel. Some writers later in the 
century, most notably and systematically Alison, reduce all the influ- 
ence of Hogarth's formal properties to moral association, though even 
for Alison the associations with formal qualities remain distinguish- 
able in their aesthetic effect from associations with concrete wholes. 

Hogarth's effort to abstract beauty from moral association implies 
no preference for abstract art: "Subject [s] of most consequence," he 
declares, "are those that most entertain and Improve the mind and 
are of public utility." 34 It is simply that this excellence is an excellence 
distinct from beauty. 

In his first manuscript draft of the Analysis, Hogarth categorized 
the "inherent quallity of objects & the motions they excite in us" by 
analogy with moral and other feelings: 

uniformity f Fitness excites a pleasure equll 

Fitness - 

and I or similar to that of truth and Justice. 

Regularity | uniformity and regularity, are 
pleasures like contentment. 

f Simplicity and 
Variety J f tinctness 

Variety excites the lively 
feeling of wantoness and play 
Itricacy like the joy of persute 

I Intricacy . . . 

quantity excite the pleasure 
L quantity \ , y . . * 

of admiration and wonder 

William Hogarth 63 

all which Joynmg in their precise degrees in the human 

have the power of creating esteem love Honour 

Simplicity and distinctness in like the pleasure of easy attainment. 

This analysis, however, is not quite a reduction o aesthetic feeling 
to moral. Fitness excites a pleasure like that of truth and Justice (I 
presume) because cognition of it is intellectual (even though through 
experience it may come to be judged of at sight), not a matter of 
direct feeling. Again, justice is a virtue violation of which excites 
antipathy, but satisfaction of which ordinarily causes only calm ap- 
probation and so with fitness. Variety and the properties associated 
with it in Hogarth's table yield a pleasure which is both immediately 
felt and of positive character, a pleasure which, when its cause is a 
human being, is a mode of love. This interpretation of Hogarth's 
sketch is confessedly conjectural; but I am in any event not persuaded 
that Hogarth was here attempting to escape the thorny tangle of 
aesthetic analysis by turning into "the broad, and more beaten path 
of moral beauty." 35 

It is unnecessary to trace Hogarth's application, sometimes a little 
fanciful, of the serpentine line to analysis of the human figure. All 
this is part of what he terms "the first general idea of form" deter- 
mined by "the nature of variety, and ... its effects on the mind 5 
with the manner how such impressions are made by means of the 
different feelings given to the eye, from its movements in tracing 
and coursing over surfaces of all kinds." 3G But there is a second "gen- 
eral idea of form" arising from fitness, an idea involving not only 
the surfaces of objects considered as shells, but the motion and 
function of the objects and hence their solidity and contents. It is this 
second conception which gives rise to judgments of fit proportion, 
"which is one part of beauty to the mind tho' not always so to the 
eye." 37 Hogarth heaps ridicule upon theories of proportion which 
pretend an absolute merit in certain ratios, especially ratios proper 
to harmony: "Albert Durer, Lamozzo . . . and some others, have 
not only puzzled mankind with a heap of minute unnecessary divi- 
sions, but also with a strange notion that those divisions are govern'd 
by the laws of music 5 which mistake they seem to have been led into, 
by having seen certain uniform and consonant divisions upon one 
string produce harmony to the ear, and by persuading themselves, 
that similar distances in lines belonging to form, would, in like 
manner, delight the eye." 38 Hogarth is inclined, indeed, to run the 
analogy the other way, to reduce sound under the laws of visual 

64 Beautiful and Sublime 

beauty. 39 But the true beauty or "gentility" of proportion in the figure 
depends only upon such general proportions of length, breadth, and 
thickness as give maximum variety consistent with "character," and 
similarly for the smaller parts of figures. 40 This "character" depends 
"on a figure being remarkable as to its form, either in some particular 
part, or altogether," provided that this singularity can be attributed 
\ to "some remarkable circumstance or cause" as the "tuscan" legs of 
chairmen and the broad shoulders and spindle shanks of Thames 
watermen clearly arise from their professions. Although Hogarth 
treats the greatness of the Apollo Belvedere alongside these char- 
acteristic beauties, it must be noted that greatness is not comparable 
with the rugged strength of a Hercules or the softness of an Antin- 
ous, for although the proportions of the Apollo suggest dignity and 
fleetness, the traits of a sun-god, this greatness is pleasing also with- 
out regard to specific function, from its general connection with grace- 
ful motion. 

Hogarth's psychology naturally log^^m^t^^^^^ll phenom- 
ena analodcnjjjiJ'n modificarions ofJjhn^Thft beauties oiTcoIor are 
treated, accordingly, not in terms of the effects of colors as such, but 
as gradations of shading. The beauty both of prime tints which serve 
as shades to one another and of "retiring shades" (variations in bril- 
liance) is linear: it arises from the variety of the shading, and four 
species of variation are distinguished, corresponding to straight, 
curved, waving, and serpentine lines. Composition with shades is 
treated in terms of opposition, simplicity, and breadth really variety 
and simplicity again but there is only the slightest ramification of 
these principles into subordinate rules and criteria. The handling of 
the entire subject of coloring is hampered by the reduction to linear 

Associative factors of course intrude into discussion of the lines and 
coloring of the face 5 yet Hogarth's system is inimical to elaboration 
of such factors, and the analysis remains on the level of shrewd com- 
mon-sense generalizations 5 there is no treatment comparable to the 
complex study Alison subsequently makes of facial beauty. Attitude 
and action, topics of the two final chapters of the Analysis, admit of 
lineal definition more readily than do light and color, and Hogarth's 
observations are accordingly more rewarding. Illustrated by the print, 
"The Country Dance," the analysis fuses formal and connotative fac- 
tors, for the graceful turns\out to be also the genteel, and the regular 
the ridiculous. The fusion o line with expression or character is not 
analyzed by Hogarth ; insofar as his treatment of expression is sys- 

William Hogarth 65 

tematic at all, it is so by virtue of his tendency to describe expression 
by his principles of variety, uniformity, and the rest, and especially in 
terms of lines. Recognition of the expressiveness of form has been 
remarked by almost every aesthetician since antiquity ; the novelty 
in Hogarth is that the beauty of form does not derive from the ex- 
pression but from independent causes, the expressiveness being super- 
added and coincidental. Hogarth's distinction of fitness or utility 
from ornamental beauty also plays through his discussion of motion 5 
he notes that "all useful habitual motions, such as are readiest to 
serve the necessary purposes of life, are those made up of plain lines, 
i.e. straight and circular lines, 55 whereas "graceful movements in ser- 
pentine lines, are used but occasionally, and rather at times of leisure, 
than constantly applied to every action we make . . . they being 
properly speaking, only the ornamental part of gesture. . . ." 41 

Two persistent misconceptions which have obstructed sympathetic 
understanding of the Analysis should perhaps be dispatched here. 
First is the notion that Hogarth tossed off the theories of the Analysis 
as a jeu d y esf>rit or as a device to escape from the position into which 
his controversy with the connoisseurs had thrust him. Ranged against 
this view is not only the coherence of the argument itself, but positive 
external evidence of Hogarth's continued adherence to its principles. 
Only three years before his death Hogarth affirmed his intention of 
publishing a supplement. 42 And his last work (1764), "THE BATHOS, 
or Manner of Sinking, in Sublime Paintings, inscribed to the Dealers 
in Dark Pictures" refers to the line of beauty. A band beneath the 
engraving depicts on one side a pyramidal spiral shell "The Conic 
Form in w cJl the Goddess of Beauty was worship by the Ancients at 
Pathos in y e Island of CYPRUS" and on the other, the serpentine 
line twisted about a cone "A Copy of the precise Line of Beauty 
[really the line of grace], as it is represented on the i 8t explanatory 
Plate [Plate I, fig. 26] of the Analysis of Beauty. Note, the similar- 
ity of these two Conic Figures, did not occur to the Author, till two 
or three Years after his publication of the Analysis, in 1754 [1753]." 
This detail demonstrates, if demonstration is needed, Hogarth's de- 
votion to his theory as long as he lived. 

A second false issue arises over the relation of Hogarth's own prac- 
tice to his theory. Detractors point with contempt to the discrepancy 
between Hogarth's painting and his aesthetic, while admirers may 
seek to find the theory exemplified in the paintings. It is of course 
obvious that Hogarth is best and best known as a comic painter, 
whereas the Analysis is devoted almost wholly to the beautiful. But 

56 Beautiful and Sublime 

Hogarth nowhere insists that the beautiful is the only end of art 5 of 
3ther possible ends, the ridiculous is a subordinate theme in the 
Analysis and the principal object of Hogarth's art. There is a true 
:orrespondence between theory and practice: "Hogarth's earliest 
^orks are conceived on a formal pattern exactly in accordance with his 
later theories. That is to say, idealized or romantic figures are ser- 
Dentine, comic ones angular or round." 43 Even in so trifling an eff ort 
is the engraving of "Columbus Breaking the Egg" this distinction 
:an be seen: the figure of Columbus the hair, the gesture of the 
-ight hand, &c. is, in this context, graceful and genteel 5 those fig- 
ares expressing vulgar astonishment, chagrin, or annoyance are not. 
But it is enthusiasm for Charles Holmes to declare that in the Analy- 
sis Hogarth attempted "to explain that vital principle, whereby his 
irt was different from that of all his contemporaries," or for Hesketh 
Hubbard to apply this idea by detecting the line of beauty in such 
i painting as "Calais Gate." 44 The line of grace is clearly inappro- 
Driate to the satirical works and is rarely found in them unless to 
Doint up some contrast or irony. The high-comedy and conversation 
Dieces are not devoid of grace "The Lady's Last Stake" might be 
nstanced but it is in the history paintings that grace and beauty 
ire to be sought, in "The Pool of Bethesda" and "The Good Samar- 
tan," or twenty years later and less strikingly in "The Ascension" 
(for St. Mary Redcliffe's). Better than in Hogarth's own works, 
lowever, Hogarthian grace and beauty are seen in Raphael and 
^nnibale Caracci with some exaggeration in Guido Reni. But in 
my event, the merit of an aesthetic theory is a function of its anaJyti- 
:al acuity and its fruitfulness in application, not of its pertinence to 
:he works of its author, which is a mere argwmentum ad hominem. 


Alexander Qerard 

IN 1756, Alexander Gerard, then professor of moral philosophy 
and logic at Marischal College, submitted An Essay on Taste 
for a prize offered by the Edinburgh Society for the Encourage- 
ment of Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, and Agriculture. This essay, 
published in I759, 1 is the most elaborate investigation of the faculty 
of taste during the eighteenth century, and, indeed, treated the sub- 
ject with such elaborateness as to discourage subsequent inquiries of 
comparable detail. A second edition was called for in 17645 and the 
third edition, 1780, added an important analysis of the standard of 
taste. 2 Gerard's other important aesthetic treatise, An Essay on Genius, 
appeared in London and Edinburgh in 1774, although Gerard ob- 
serves that "the first part [was] composed, and some progress made 
in the second part, so long ago as the year 1758." 3 The later book 
is the more impressive analytically, but its principal subject is foreign 
to the present study and it will be considered only incidentally. 
"Taste," observes Gerard, 

consists chiefly in the improvement of those principles, which are com- 
monly called the powers of imagination, and are considered by modern 
philosophers as internal or reflex senses. . . . These are reducible to the 
following principles; the senses of novelty, of sublimity, of beauty, of 
imitation, of harmony, of ridicule, and of virtue. With the explication 
of these, we must, therefore, begin our enquiry into the nature of taste. 
We shall next endeavour to discover, how these senses co-operate in 
forming taste, what other powers of the mind are combined with them in 
their exertions, what constitutes that refinement and perfection of them, 
which we term good taste, and by what means it is obtained. And last 
of all, we shall, by a review of the principles, operation, and subjects of 
taste, determine its genuine rank among our faculties, its proper prov- 
ince, and real importance. 4 


68 Beautiful and Sublime 

This statement is the rationale for the three parts of the Essay: the 
component f acuities ; their conjunction ; and the relations between 
the taste thus constituted and other faculties and principles. 

The seven internal senses are not ultimate principles of human 
nature: they are compound and derivative faculties. They are termed 
senses because they share with the external senses independence of 
volition, and immediacy and simplicity of perception; for though 
they are compound in principle, they are simple in feeling and their 
perceptions are inconceivable prior to experience. "Those who are 
unacquainted with philosophy," Gerard remarks, 

reckon all our powers ultimate qualities of the mind. But nature de- 
lights in simplicity, and produces numerous effects, by a few causes of 
extensive influence; and it is the business of philosophy to investigate 
these causes, and to explain the phaenomena from them. On enquiry it 
appears that the internal senses are not ultimate principles, because all 
their phaenomena can be accounted for, by simpler qualities of the mind. 
Thus the pleasure we receive from beautiful forms is resolvible into the 
pleasure of facility and that of moderate exertion . . . but the senti- 
ment of beauty arises, without our reflecting on this mixture. This senti- 
ment is compound in its frincifles, but perfectly simple in its feeling. . . , 5 

And in general, the phenomena of taste "proceed, either from the 
general laws of sensation, or from certain operations of the imagina- 
tion. Taste, though itself a species of sensation, is, in respect of its 
principles, justly reduced to imagination." 6 Gerard can wield Occam's 

A general principle of sensation, subsuming the notion that mod- 
erate activity is pleasurable, is that 

when an object is presented to any of our senses, the mind conforms it 
self to its nature and appearance, feels an emotion, and is put in a frame 
suitable and analogous; of which we have a perception by consciousness 
or reflection. Thus difficulty produces a consciousness of a grateful exer- 
tion of energy: facility of an even and regular flow of spirits: excellence, 
perfection, or sublimity, begets an enlargement of mind and conscious 
pride; deficience or imperfection, a depression of soul, and painful hu- 
mility. This adapting of the mind to its present object is the immediate 
cause of many of the pleasures and pains of taste; and, by its consequences, 
it augments or diminishes many others. 7 

This is not, however, the sole such principle; association and sym- 
pathy ("which enlivens our ideas of the passions infused by it to such 
a pitch, as in a manner converts them into the passions themselves" 8 ) 
modify our sensations. 

Alexander Gerard 69 

The fundamental faculties for Gerard are the usual: external sense, 
memory, imagination, judgment. Gerard's view of these faculties is 
essentially that of Hume, though Gerard is an eclectic writer and on 
occasion imitates Reid or Hutcheson instead. But the Hutchesonian 
element in Gerard can be overestimated: Gerard analyzes senses or 
faculties which for Hutcheson were simple and original, and he does 
not attempt to reduce beauty to a single species. 

Of the various internal senses, the only one which need be treated 
before proceeding to the more strictly aesthetic problems is the sense 
of virtue. Since Gerard is only incidentally concerned with morals, 
he does not proliferate distinctions, and comprehends under the 
"sense or taste of virtue" perceptions of the "beauty" of virtue, of 
its fitness to human nature, of its obligatory character, of its good 
desert all which perceptions might perhaps be referred to separate 
senses. There is, furthermore, nothing systematic in Gerard's treat- 
ment of this sense. When Hutcheson speaks of the "beauty" of virtue, 
his language conveys not a vague and figurative meaning but a signifi- 
cance systematically connected with the whole of his thought that 
virtue is so related to the economy of the universe as to present a 
picture of uniformity in variety. Gerard means, in contrast, only that 
certain traits of character yield pleasurable perceptions in onlookers, 
perceptions vaguely like those caused by visible beauty. The connec- 
tion between ethics and aesthetics in this system, beyond the fact that 
virtue is in some sense "beautiful" or "sublime," is causal. Both char- 
acter and taste arise in large part from similar operations of the 
imagination: "By being compounded with one another, or with other 
original qualities of human nature, they ["operations of imagination," 
"energies of fancy"] generate most of our compounded powers. In 
particular, they produce affection and taste of every kind j the former, 
by operating in conjunction with those qualities of the mind, which 
fit us for action j the latter, by being combined with the general laws 
of sensation." 9 The prevailing passions influence the turn of taste, 
and taste reciprocally modifies the bent of the passions. On the whole, 
taste is favorable to virtue, since it minimizes sensual pleasure, pro- 
duces an agreeable cast of mind conducive to the gentler affections, 
and imparts a "peculiar sensibility to all the other powers of the 
soul." 10 But although taste is naturally more favorable to virtue 
than to vice, "it is necessary to remember that many different causes 
concur in forming the characters of men. Taste is but one of these 
causes $ and not one of the most powerful. It is not therefore to be 
expected that the character should be, in every instance, perfectly 

JO Beautiful and Sublime 

analogous to the taste." u These differentiations and causal connec- 
tions clearly mark Gerard's approach as literal and differential, in 
contrast with Hutcheson's more analogical and organic treatment. 

The phenomena of memory, though surprisingly varied in Gerard's 
analysis/ 2 present no peculiar problem, and it is possible to pass 
directly to the treatment of imagination and judgment. The analysis 
of imagination is roughly similar to that of Hume 3 there is a com- 
parable treatment of association and of the Humeian distinction be- 
tween natural relations (by which the imagination associates spon- 
taneously) and philosophical relations (by which the judgment may 
connect reflexively). 13 And other operations of the imagination be- 
sides association follow Hume pretty closely. The contrariety of the 
influence of sympathy with that of comparison is remarked upon 5 
for though simply associated perceptions transmit their qualities to 
one another, yet if the connected ideas have such a degree of relation 
as invites comparison, the effect is opposite, and a pleasant idea will 
appear less so by comparison with a more pleasant. 14 The influence 
of the passions on association is given an extraordinarily rich treat- 
ment 5 15 as in much of the Essay on Genms y Gerard goes far beyond 
Hume in the evolution of a detailed associational psychology, though 
often at some cost in systematic rigor. 

The study of judgment is more different from orthodox Humeian- 
ism. Judgment is either of truth or of beauty, which latter kind is 
taste. Gerard is rather quick in accepting a variety of intellectual 
faculties concerned with truth as original and unanalyzable, borrow- 
ing eclectically from Reid, from Beattie, and from Campbell. But 
the question of judgment as it pertains to beauty will take its proper 
place hereafter. 

The "sense or taste of novelty" is included by Gerard among the 
internal senses because of the tradition established by Addison. His 
explanation of the love of novelty is rather surprisingly complicated. 
Five principles can be distinguished: the elevation and pleasurable 
exertion of the mind in conceiving the new phenomenon 5 surprise j 
composition with other passions or emotions j reflection on success in 
surmounting difficulty, or self-gratulation on acquisition of the new 
perception 5 sympathy with the original genius displayed in inventive 
works of science and art. 16 The pleasing sentiment arising from nov- 
elty blends readily with other agreeable passions an object happens 
to produce 5 but what is of interest is that such composition may be- 
come a conversion: "The exercise of mind, which the conception 
of new objects occasions, though it be pleasant in its own nature, ren- 

Alexander Gerard 71 

ders a disagreeable object more disagreeable at first: for the most op- 
posite sensations produced by the same cause, and existing in the mind 
at once, are easily transfused into one another, and, by their compo- 
sition form one more violent, which always follows the nature of the 
ingredient that was most intense." 17 Gerard makes use of this Hu- 
meian theory of conversion not only in accounting for the effects of 
novelty, but also in treating of the ridiculous and in discussing 

The internal senses of chief importance for this study are, of 
course, those of sublimity and beauty. "GRANDEUR or sublimity," 
Gerard declares, "gives us a still higher and nobler pleasure [than 
novelty], by means of a sense appropriated to the perception of it; 
while meanness renders any object, to which it adheres, disagreeable 
and distasteful. Objects are sublime, which possess quantity or am- 
plitude, and simplicity in conjunction." 1S The emotion of sublimity is 
produced by such objects because we 

contemplate objects and ideas with a disposition similar to their nature. 
When a large object is presented, the mind expands itself to the extent 
of that object, and is filled with one grand sensation, which totally 
possessing it, composes it into a solemn sedateness, and strikes it with deep 
silent wonder and admiration: it finds such a difficulty in spreading itself 
to the dimensions of its object, as enlivens and invigorates its frame : and 
having overcome the opposition which this occasions, it sometimes imag- 
ines itself present in every part of the scene, which it contemplates; and, 
from the sense of this immensity, feels a noble pnde, and entertains a 
lofty conception of its own capacity. 19 

Each part of this analysis greatness, simplicity conjoined therewith, 
the enlargement of the mind to match the scene, and its conscious 
pride each part was to be found in An Essay on the Sublime by Dr. 
[John] Baillie, which had appeared posthumously in I747/ 50 Similar 
ideas, of course, appear as commonplaces in classical authors 5 and 
Hume, too, notes that "the mere view and contemplation of any 
greatness, whether successive or extended, enlarges the soul, and 
gives it a sensible delight and pleasure," and that (contrariwise) the 
mind "spreads itself" on objects, seeing its own traits existing in the 
object of perception. 21 Both notions are more intimately connected 
with a general theory of the mind in Hume than in Gerard, and 
there is actually loss of content as well as of systematic connection in 
Gerard's formulation 5 for Gerard, following Baillie, emphasizes ex- 
tent as principal cause of the sensation of sublimity, whereas eleva- 
tion and temporal distance were found by Hume to be still more 

72 Beautiful and Sublime 

sublime. The sublimity of duration and that of great number are 
traced by Gerard to their participation in quantity. 

Sublimity of the passions and affections is explained by association 
with their causes, objects, or effects: "as these always enter into our 
conception of the passion, and are often connected with quantity, they 
naturally render the passion sublime." 22 Here again Gerard has fol- 
lowed Baillie, and it is interesting to note that both find universal 
benevolence sublime, whereas to writers who distinguish the sublime 
and beautiful on a basis other than quantity, benevolence is more 
usually felt to be beautiful. The sublime of science, for Gerard as for 
Baillie, is found to consist in "universal principles and general the- 
orems, from which, as from an inexhaustible source, flow multitudes 
of corollaries and subordinate truths" 3 23 thus, the very reason which 
makes science beautiful for Hutcheson makes it sublime for Gerard. 

An object which is not in itself sublime by its quantity may become 
so not only by association of ideas (as with the sublimity of passions 
and affections) but by association of impressions and feelings: "It 
must also be remarked, that whatever excites in the mind a sensation 
or emotion similar to what is excited by vast objects is on this account 
denominated sublime. . . ," 24 Terrific objects are termed sublime 
because of the likeness of the awful sedateness they inspire to sub- 
limity. And in the same way, we admire as sublime pre-eminence in 
strength, power, genius, magnanimity which enables a man to despise 
honors, riches, or death, and other excellences: "Such degrees of ex- 
cellence, by an original principle of the mind, excite wonder and 
astonishment, the same emotion which is produced by amplitude. A 
great degree of quality has here the same effect upon the mind, as 
vastness of quantity y and it produces this effect in the same manner, by 
stretching and elevating the mind in the conception of it." 25 Baillie 
had attempted to show, by a strained reduction, that these excellences 
were sublime only because they implied quantity in the objects upon 
which they were exerted worlds, multitudes, nothingness, &c. Al- 
though Gerard's assertion that we admire such traits by an original 
property of the mind may be mooted, his introduction of the prin- 
ciple of association of impressions, of like feelings, is of signal im- 

Gerard does not himself apply the term "association" to this com- 
mingling of like emotions, nor does he apply it to the relation where- 
by passions become sublime through connection with their causes, 
objects, or effects. He confines the term to a narrower range of phe- 
nomena. The sublime of diction is traced to "association" with the 

Alexander Gerard 73 

ideas presented or the character of the speaker, and the grandeur of 
elevated, distant, and temporally remote objects is referred to associ- 
ation, with due acknowledgement of Hume's explanation. This 
ascription of the greatness of such objects to association is not in con- 
tradiction with the analysis of the sublimity of duration and extent 
already mentioned ; in the earlier context, it was the extent and time 
1>er se which were inherently sublime from their participation in 
quantity, while here it is the objects removed m time or space which 
are, by association with the intervals, sublime. It is puzzling why the 
relation of sign to significatum should be "association" and not that 
of cause to effect, of which it is but a special case. Most of the Scot- 
tish philosophers use the term "association" in a somewhat pejorative 
sense 5 Hutcheson, for instance, calls by this name only accidental, 
personal, idiosyncratic associations a usage derived, perhaps, from 
Locke. Gerard's associations, however, are universal, not personal 5 
he must consider that these relations are less close than those other 
relations through which objects may become sublime. 

Sublimit^in the arts rarelyj*riy.g Hir^ri-ly F.yen in architecture T it 
is^chiefly the suggestion of strength or durability or magnificence 
which ._is_ *k* rangg nf pur emotion. In painting, the sublimity of the 
objects of imitation scenes of grandeur or sublime passions may be 
supplemented by "an artful kind of disproportion, which assigns to 
some well chosen member a greater degree of quantity than it com- 
monly has" 26 a point drawn, of course, from Hogarth. Gerard's 
discussion of the visual arts is largely based upon Baillie, but brief 
though his treatment is, he supplements Baillie by insisting on the 
importance of comparative magnitude, which affects the mind much 
as absolute magnitude does. In poetry, sublimity must arise largely 
from the subject, though it may be artfully heightened by composi- 
tional devices. Here Gerard is supplementing Baillie (who scarcely 
touches upon the arts of language) by rhetorical theory, yet he takes 
pains to point out that Longinus uses "sublimity" metaphorically to 
describe any superlative excellence of composition, whereas he is con- 
fining the term to its precise significance j the nervous, vehement, pa- 
thetic, and elegant are not sublime for Gerard unless they are applied 
to a subject which is naturally sublime. Baillie and Gerard are wholly 
inadequate in treating of the sublime of music, observing only that 
the length (quantity) and gravity of the notes contribute to sublim- 
ity, ignoring even so obvious a consideration as volume 5 Gerard adds, 
that music may inspire passions which are sublime, and through this 
association would itself become sublime. In all this, Gerard has done 

74 Beautiful and Sublime 

no more than indicate the lines along which explanations must be 
sought j not until Alison is the real content of an aesthetic of the sub- 
lime and beautiful worked out, and then it is a content evolved by 
rigorously systematic method, radically in contrast with Gerard's 
eclectic patchwork. It is Gerard's Essay on Genius rather than the 
early Essay on Taste which approaches Alison's work in proliferation 
of detail, rigor of system, and insight into associational mechanism. 

Baillie had denied vigorously that terror could be sublime, al- 
though the two feelings could co-exist or oscillate in the mind when 
stimulated by the same object 5 in their own nature, indeed, terror 
and sublimity are opposite: "The Sublime dilates and elevates the 
Soul, Fear sinks and contracts it. . . ." 27 "There ever enters in the 
Description of Storms," Baillie observes, ". . . some small degree 
of Dread, and this Dread may be so heighten'd (when a Person 
is actually in one) as intirely to destroy the Sublime" 28 Gerard, 
in contrast, urges that terror is similar in its feeling to the sublime: 
"objects exciting terror . . . are in general sublime 5 for terror al- 
ways implies astonishment, occupies the whole soul, and suspends all 
its motions." 29 With the theory of Burke and the strictures on it of 
Payne Knight, the terrific was to become a focus of controversy among 
theorists of the sublime ; and even this early difference between 
Baillie and Gerard manifests the influence of system in the statement 
and solution of problems. Baillie, sticking very close to magnitude 
as the one intrinsic sublimity, is led necessarily to separate the sub- 
lime from the pathetic. Passions may be sublime as objects of percep- 
tion, if they are connected with vastness by their causes or results 5 
but the passion felt subjectively is not sublimity, nor is its cause sub- 
lime in the same respect as it is pathetic. 

The Sublime) when it exists simple and unmixed, by filling the Mind 
with one vast and uniform Idea, affects it with a solemn Sedateness; by 
this means the Soul itself becomes, as it were, one simple grand Sensa- 
tion. Thus the Sublime not hurrying us from Object to Object, rather 
composes than agitates, whilst the very Essence of the Pathetick consists 
in an Agitation of the Passions, which is ever effected by crouding into 
the Thoughts a thousand different Objects, and hurrying the Mind into 
various Scenes. 80 

Doubtless Gerard would concede that real practical fear is in itself 
depressing and opposite to sublimity; but terrific objects are sublime 
when we can regard them detachedly. It might even be argued that 
a certain degree of fearful agitation can be converted to sublimity. Ad- 

Alexander Gerard 75 

mitting as he does that like feelings may become practically indistin- 
guishable and may properly be called by the same name, Gerard is 
under no compulsion to distinguish the terrific or the admirable from 
the sublime, or to explain away their apparent sublimity by finding 
some connection with physical greatness. 

"BEAUTIFUL objects," Gerard premises, "are of different kinds, and 
produce pleasure by means of different principles of human na- 
ture." 31 Beauty, indeed, is an omnium-gatherum of all aesthetic ef- 
fects not especially appropriated to some other sense: 

THERE is perhaps no term used in a looser sense than beauty, which 
is applied to almost every thing that pleases us. Though this usage is 
doubtless too indefinite, we may, without a faulty deviation from pre- 
cision, apply this epithet to every pleasure which is conveyed to the eye, 
and which has not got a proper and peculiar name 5 to the pleasure we 
receive, either when an object of sight suggests pleasant ideas of other 
senses; or when the ideas suggested are agreeable ones formed from the 
sensations of sight; or when both these circumstances concur. In all these 
cases, beauty is, at least in part, resolvable into association. 32 

The several classes of beauty, though distinct in their principles, are 
reduced to the same genus by the similarity of their feeling by asso- 
ciation of impressions. 

Beauty of figure is traced, though without any remarkable subtlety, 
to uniformity (and simplicity), variety (and intricacy), and propor- 
tion. Uniformity ensures facility of perception; variety gratifies the 
love of novelty 5 33 uniformity and variety together Hutcheson's 
formula set on a different basis please because they conform to the 
nature of the perceiving mind, "giving the mind at once the opposite 
gratifications of facility and active exertion, mixed with, and mel- 
lowing one another. 3 ' 34 Proportion too may depend upon the nature 
of perception, the principle being Aristotle's rule of magnitude: a size 
discernible but not incomprehensible. But for the most part, for Ger- 
ard as for Hogarth, proportion depends upon fitness. This fit propor- 
tion is not the beauty of utility itself, but a generalized association 
based only ultimately on utility. Utility itself is of course also pleas- 
ing, both directly as being useful and indirectly through the infer- 
ences it may afford of art and skill in the causes. Since considerations 
of utility determine the laws of the various arts which propose various 
ends, most of the beauties of belles-lettres would be reduced under 
this rubric, although the beauties of the visual arts would fall pri- 
marily under the heads of figure and color. 

76 Beautiful and Sublime 

The beauty of color is partly original and partly associative. By be- 
ing "less hurtful to the organs of sight," 35 some colors afford a me- 
chanical pleasure which all the associationists concede, though all do 
not, with Gerard, consider it beauty. The splendor of other colors pro- 
duces a mood cheerful and vivacious, and though Gerard does not 
term this "association," it clearly is association of impressions based on 
the resemblance of sensation to emotion. When Gerard observes that 
"the beauty of colors is, in most instances, resolvable into associa- 
tion" 36 he is using that term in the more confined sense discussed 
above. This association appears in the suggestion of mental disposi- 
tions by the colors of the countenance 5 Gerard's plan, however, does 
not require him to analyze this commonplace, and no searching study 
of the beauty of the face was made until the second edition of Alison's 
Essays on Taste in 1811. 

It can not properly be said that Gerard's treatment of beauty de- 
rives from Hogarth, as Monk has suggested. 37 Gerard handles his 
subject wholly in terms of ideas, impressions, and the habits of asso- 
ciation, whereas Hogarth hankers after an untenable physiological 
theory and in any case does not employ association as a principle un- 
less incidentally and implicitly. Hogarth, furthermore, tends to re- 
duce the varieties of beauty to the model of the waving line, whereas 
Gerard's effort is rather to analyze and separate the kinds of beauty 
and the faculties which discriminate them. Sublimity for Hogarth 
is simply an excellence supervening to beauty, whereas Gerard finds 
independent roots for it in the mind. Monk remarks, on this point, 
that for Gerard "beauty is said to be largely intellectual, sublimity 
largely emotional" 5 3S but all aesthetic feelings are "emotional" 
are, that is, impressions and some of the modes of beauty are per- 
ceptions making as direct and immediate impact upon the mind as 
those of sublimity. 

Gerard's discrimination of aesthetic categories leads him to treat 
imitation as appealing to a separate sense or taste. His analysis of this 
sense is pretty subtle: 

Similitude is a very powerful principle of association, which, by contin- 
ually connecting the ideas in which it is found, and leading our thoughts 
from one of them to the other, produces in mankind a strong tendency 
to comparison. As comparison implies in the very act a gentle exertion 
of the mind, it is on that account agreeable. As a farther energy is req- 
uisite for discovering the original by the copy; and as this discovery 
produces a grateful consciousness of our own discernment and sagacity, 

Alexander Gerard 77 

and includes the pleasant feeling of success, the recognizing resemblance, 
in consequence of comparison, augments our pleasure. And when the 
imitation is intended, our admiration of the skill and ingenuity of the 
artist diffuses itself over the effect from which that skill is inferred, and 
compleats the delight which the work inspires. 39 

It is this complex pleasure of imitation which, in the case of unpleas- 
ant originals, "converts into delight even the uneasy impressions, 
which spring from the objects imitated." It is thus that the suspense, 
anxiety, and terror of tragedy afford a more serious and intense satis- 
faction than the gaiety of comedy. "When thus secondarily pro- 
duced," those feelings "agitate and employ the mind, and rouse and 
give scope to its greatest activity 5 while at the same time our implicit 
knowledge that the occasion is remote or fictitious, enables the 
pleasure of imitation to relieve the pure torment which would attend 
their primary operation." 40 Gerard makes ingenious use of the theory 
of conversion in his subsequent discussion of the sense or taste of ridi- 
cule, a discussion otherwise undistinguished. Wit, humor, and ridicule 
please partly by imitation, which pleasure is serious j but it is con- 
verted to gaiety by the ludicrousness of the subject. Here the pri- 
mary feeling of the original converts the feeling from the imitation, 
whereas in tragedy the converse is true. 

Imitation to Gerard is always a resemblance of copy and original, 
but his conception of this resemblance is flexible. Painting and sculp- 
ture are strictly imitative, but the medium of poetry (setting dialogue 
aside) has no resemblance to the sensible and intelligible objects sig- 
nified. A poem is an imitation not of its particular subject but of Na- 
ture: the real subject is a conception of the poet, a conception which 
resembles, but is never identical with, existing things. 

In a word, poetry is called an imitation, not because it produces a 
lively idea of its immediate subject, but because this subject itself is an 
imitation of some part of real nature. It is not called an imitation, to 
express the exactness with which it copies real things; for then history 
would be a more perfect imitation than poetry. It is called an imitation 
for the very contrary reason, to intimate that it is not confined to the 
description only of realities, but may take the liberty to describe all such 
things as resemble realities, and on account of that resemblance, come 
within the limits of probability. 41 

This is not a pseudo-Platonic theory of general Nature 5 it is a theory 
of probability, and the conception of probability as resemblance to the 

78 Beautiful and Sublime 

laws of real existence could be developed in such a way as to parallel 
Aristotle's conception of probability as consisting in the inner coher- 
ence of the poetical work. 

Gerard's remarks on harmony are pretty slender. He suggests an 
analogy with the beauty of figure, with proportion, variety, and uni- 
formity as principles, but makes no effort to evolve any of the im- 
mense body of axiomata media of music from those principles. "But 
still the chief excellence of Music," he continues, "lies in its expres- 
sion. By this quality, music is applied to a determinate subject: by this 
it acquires a fitness, becomes adapted to an end, and agitates the soul 
with whatever passion the artist chooses." 42 

Beyond these "simple powers of human nature" the internal 
senses being simple in feeling albeit not original taste involves 
their union with one another and their co-operation with other facul- 
ties. All the objects of the internal senses are enhanced by coexisting 
with the others j although the ridiculous might be excepted from this 
generalization, it is true that "taste is not one simple power j but an 
aggregate of many, which, by the resemblance of their energies, and 
the analogy of their subjects, and causes, readily associate and are 
combined." 43 Sensibility, too, is a constituent of taste: "DELICACY of 
passion must be united with vigorous internal senses, in order to give 
taste its just extent." 44 This point, indeed, has been implicit through- 
out, that appeal to the passions enhances aesthetic effect, but that it 
does not constitute aesthetic effect. Thus, the greatest virtue of music 
is in its expressiveness, yet music is excellent not simply because it 
may arouse the passions, but because the parts of the music may be 
skilfully adapted to the eni of arousing the passions 5 the aesthetic 
virtue is this adaptation, not the passions as such. Obviously, however, 
the man insensible to the passion cannot perceive the adaptation, and, 
moreover, the turmoil of the passions can be converted to intensify 
related aesthetic emotions (though Gerard omits to make this last 
point). Sensibility, accordingly, is an integral and indispensable part 
of the theory. Judgment, finally, is an ingredient of taste: "in all the 
operations of taste, judgment is employed5 not only in presenting the 
subjects, on which the senses exercise themselves 5 but also in com- 
paring and weighing their perceptions and decrees, and thence passing 
ultimate sentence upon the whole." 45 

With the contributory faculties examined, Gerard can determine 
the excellences of taste, commingling judgment and imagination. 
These virtues of taste "may be reduced to four, sensibility, refinement, 
correctness, and the proportion or comparative adjustment of its sep- 

Alexander Gerard jg 

arate <prmci<ples. . . . This excellence of taste supposes not only cul- 
ture, but culture judiciously applied. Want of taste unavoidably 
springs from negligence, false taste from injudicious cultivation." 46 
It is apparent that Gerard is no relativist: there is a standard of taste 
superior to the preferences of individuals. The standard is proclaimed 
in a striking statement which concludes the first part of the Essay: 

There are qualities in things, determinate and stable, independent of 
humour or caprice, that are fit to operate on mental principles, common 
to all men, and, by operating on them, are naturally productive of the 
sentiments of taste in all its forms. If, in any particular instance, they 
prove ineffectual, it is to be ascnbed to some weakness or disorder in the 
person, who remains unmoved, when these qualities are exhibited to his 
view. Men are, with jew exceptions, affected by the qualities, we have 
investigated: but these qualities themselves are, without any exception, the 
constituents of excellence or faultiness in the several kinds. 47 

This uncompromising "absolutism" troubles modern scholars, who 
affect to find subjectivism the logical consequence of psychological anal- 
ysis. Marjorie Grene has formulated the problem of the standard of 
taste in Gerard most elaborately: her intention is to state and resolve 
the "striking tension between a psychological theory of taste and 
standards apparently established on the basis of that theory, yet in- 
compatible with it." 48 Her examination consists of rejecting one by 
one a series of hypotheses "implicit in [Gerard's] analysis of taste 
and its improvement," finding each inadequate to explain false taste. 
Mrs. Grene's problem is really unsolvable, for she has supposed that 
"an examination of the broader basis of taste in human nature . . . 
reveals it as a set of simple feelings which can no more be 'justified' 
than can the perceptions of the external senses in their character of 
simple givens." 49 But this is to forget that the internal senses do not 
present "simple givens" but feelings which, though simple in sensa- 
tion, are derivative and complex in principle, feelings which are sus- 
ceptible of reflexive analysis, in terms of which they can be adjudged 
proper or improper responses. It might be added that we ordinarily 
have no hesitation in judging the external senses defective upon occa- 
sion j and a fortiori . 

It must be noted that Mrs. Grene is not aware of the fourth part 
of the Essay > added in the third edition, a part which treats at length 
this very problem. 50 Even so, the kind of explanation which Gerard 
must give is apparent from the argument of the first three parts. In 
the first place, there is a universal element in human nature 5 there are 

O Beautiful and Sublime 

faculties and mental habits which inherently tend towards, which are 
a potentiality for the development of, certain preferences. Custom 
and education, the Zeitgeist and individual caprice, may obstruct, 
warp, or overlie these natural developments j yet the acorn still tends 
to become the oak. What the natural tendencies are is not, of course, 
to be determined by counting noses, for that would have just the ef- 
fect Mrs. Grene complains of to erect local and temporary preju- 
dices (in Gerard's case, those of a limited class of Edinburgh gentle- 
men) into universal principles. The true principles are determined by 
analysis of the mind; the psychological method is not incompatible 
with a standard it is the method far excellence of determining the 

Such is, in fact, the fashion in which Gerard does argue in his 
added treatment of the standard. He is so vividly aware that diversity 
of tastes is real, that he rejects the test, even as established by the ar- 
gument of Hume, of quod semfer, quod ubique; even the Greek 
classics, he urges, enjoy only the consent of the European nations. 
These diversities "must be produced both by an original inequality 
and dissimilitude in the powers whose combination forms taste, and 
by the different degrees and modes of culture which have been be- 
stowed upon these powers." 51 Taste in direct exercise, then, consid- 
ered as a species of sensation, cannot admit of a standard: a man's 
likes depend upon his constitution and his training. But taste as a re- 
flex act, as a species of discernment, is susceptible of a standard. This 
standard is "not something by which all tastes may be reconciled and 
brought to coincide: it is only something by which it may be deter- 
mined, which is the best among tastes various, contending, and inca- 
pable of coinciding perfectly. It is so far from being impossible to dis- 
cover a standard which may answer this purpose to the impartial, that 
a standard may be found, to which even they whose relish it con- 
demns, may find themselves obliged to submit. The person who 
feels in a certain manner . . . may yet be convinced that he feels 
amiss, and yield readily to a judgment in opposition to his feeling." 52 
Philosophical criticism, not universal consensus, is the only just test 
for new works or for the works of obscure nations. Mere sentiment 
is too unsteady to be accurately weighed, and precision can be se- 
cured only by studying the causes of the sentiments j sentiment is 
corrected and fixed by attention to the qualities producing it. Gen- 
eral approbation, then, provides not the standard but the data from 
which the laws can be educed ; the laws in hand, criticism can explain 
sentiments, however singular, and pronounce "which are most con- 

Alexander Gerard 8 1 

f ormable to the real constitution of human nature." 53 The analytical 
method of Gerard and of most other eighteenth-century critics leads 
naturally and inevitably to this normative position, radically opposite 
to subjectivism. Hogarth, Burke, Hume, Kames, Alison, Knight, and 
other philosophical critics one and all argue for a normative posi- 
tion: all aim to define true taste by analyzing the natural effect of the 
qualities of objects on the faculties of the mind. 54 

Gerard was very conscious of the logic of criticism, and conceived 
of philosophical criticism aesthetics as inductive in the Baconian 

In order, therefore, to form an able critic, taste must be attended 
with a philosophical genius, which may subject these materials to a reg- 
ular induction, reduce them into classes, and determine the general rules 
which govern them. . . . 

The qualities common to the lower classes will naturally be determined 
first, by regular induction. But a true critic will not rest satisfied with 
them. By renewing the induction, and pushing it to a greater degree of 
subtlety, he will ascertain the less conspicuous properties, which unite 
several inferior species under the same genus; and will carry on his 
analysis, till he discovers the highest kinds, and prescribes the most exten- 
sive laws of art. . . . 55 

Only by the Baconian method of ascending induction and Gerard 
quotes Bacon "can our conceptions of all the sentiments of taste, and 
of the qualities by which they are excited, be rendered accurate and 
determinate." 56 This direct and cumulative induction is confirmed by 
deductive collation of the discovered laws with the principles of hu- 
man nature already established, of course, by metaphysical psychol- 
ogy: "To complete the criticism, and render it truly philosophical, the 
common qualities of the several classes, both superior and subordinate, 
must be compared with the principles of human nature, that we may 
learn by what means they please or displease, and for what reason." 5T 
This final deductive step saves Gerard's procedure from the danger of 
uncontrolled and unverified induction ; indeed, the rough outline of 
method which Gerard urges corresponds to the Inverse Deductive 
Method of J. S. Mill. The inverse deductive method empirical gen- 
eralization followed by a priori deduction of those provisional results 
from fundamental principles already established, with the consilience 
of inductive and deductive results constituting the verification is, as 
Mill shows in the well-known argument in Book VI of his Logic** 
alone proper to subjects (such as aesthetics) in which a considerable 
variety of interacting causes participate. Plurality of causes and inter- 

82 Beautiful and Sublime 

mixture of effects abound in aesthetics hence the immense variety of 
plausible causal analyses which aestheticians devise and merely in- 
ductive procedures would be of slight utility. Inductions from the 
data supplied by taste yield empirical and provisional laws the chief 
use of which is to guide deduction and to verify the principles de- 
duced from established laws of human nature. 

But Gerard errs, I believe, in pushing the initial inductive pro- 
cedure through successive stages, ascending to more and more general 
laws before deriving these same results a priori; the deduction from 
psychological principles must accompany at each stage the empirical 
generalizations indeed, a rigorous aesthetics would be far more de- 
ductive than inductive in the establishment of the amomata medw. 
Gerard (somewhat inconsistently with the remarks discussed above) 
does in fact often operate as I have suggested, and even gives theoretic 
justification for so doing. Thus, when he argues that taste is but one 
cause of character, and liable to be counteracted by other causes, he is 
led to observe that, "On this account, examples of a good taste joined 
with gross passions or a vicious character are far from being sufficient 
to prove that taste has no connection with morals." This "heteroge- 
neous composition" of good taste and bad morals causes Gerard to re- 
flect that 

all our conclusions concerning human nature must be founded on experi- 
ence: but it is not necessary that every conclusion should be immediately 
deduced from experiment. A conclusion is sufficiently established, if it 
be shewn that it necessarily results from general qualities of the human 
mind, which have been ascertained by experiment and induction. This 
is the natural method of establishing synthetical conclusions; especially 
where an effect is produced by a complication of causes. This is the case 
in the subject of our present enquiry. 59 

Gerard had a concern, then, with method in aesthetics, though he 
did not develop his views so distinctly and systematically as would 
have been possible, nor did he apply them with entire consistency in 
the Essay on Taste > made up as much of that work is of eclectic bor- 
rowings not entirely reduced to system. The later Essay on Genius 
is a more cogent and exhaustive work, and exhibits more vividly the 
strengths of Gerard's aesthetic method. 60 


Sdmund "Burke 

THE WORK which, after Addison's essays, was most influential 
on the course of British aesthetic speculation in the eighteenth 
century, was Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Ori- 
gin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Although the Sublime 
and Beautiful was subjected to severe enough attack Richard Payne 
Knight declared that he had "never met with any man of learning, 
by whom the philosophy of the Inquiry into the Sublime and Beauti- 
ful was not as much despised and ridiculed, as the brilliancy and ani- 
mation of its style were applauded, and admired" * it was acclaimed 
by Johnson ("We have an example of true criticism in Burke's 'Essay 
on the Sublime and Beautiful' . . ." 2 ), by Reynolds ("the admir- 
able treatise c On the Sublime and Beautiful'" is the only modern 
work thus commended in the Discourses 3 ), and by Hume (who 
wrote of Burke as an "Irish gentleman, who wrote lately a very 
pretty treatise on the Sublime" 4 ) ; the discipleship of Uvedale Price 
is well enough known, and indeed, everyone after Burke either imi- 
tates him or borrows from him or feels it necessary to refute him. 

Burke's book, the influence of which was felt in Germany as well 
as in England, owed nothing to the fame of its author, for it was the 
first composition to come from his hand 5 and may have been 
sketched as early as Burke's undergraduate days in Trinity College, 
Dublin. The bibliography of the Sublime and Beautiful is confused} 
but Theodore Moore's complete and ingenious historical argument 
harmonizes all the apparently conflicting evidence, and establishes 
pretty conclusively that the first edition was published April 21, 1757, 
and the second January 10, I759- 6 

Burke's program of inquiry is explicit. Observing that "the ideas of 
the sublime and beautiful were frequently confounded, and that both 
were indiscriminately applied to things greatly differing, and some- 


84 Beautiful and Sublime 

times of natures directly opposite," he proposed to remedy this con- 
fusion of ideas "from a diligent examination of our passions in our 
own breasts, from a careful survey of the properties of things which 
we find by experience to influence those passions, and from a sober 
and attentive investigation of the laws of nature, by which those prop- 
erties are capable of affecting the body and thus of exciting our pas- 
sions." 7 These three steps of the inquiry are readily connected with 
the divisions of the Sublime and, Beautiful. Part i is the examination 
of the emotions of sublimity and beauty of the formal_cause .of the 
two characters. Parts ii and lii investigate the properties of things 
productive of the emotion of sublimity (Part ii) and that of beauty 
(Part Hi) they are an investigation of material causes. Part iv treats 
of the laws in accordance with which the assigned properties excite the 
emotions it treats, that is, of the efficient cause. 8 This program is not, 
as some moderns have seen it, a step from the objectivism of the neo- 
classic to a psychological and subjective view 5 9 this whole dichotomy, 
applied to the aestheticians here examined, is an illusion all the aes- 
theticians from Addison to Kant and onwards conceive of the sublime 
as a feeling in the mind caused by certain properties in external ob- 
jects. The real differences among these men are to be sought in the 
methods of argument and the causal principles which they employ. 

Burke has not only a clear conception of his program, but also some 
awareness of the techniques of argument proper to it. He lays down, 
in treating the influence of proportion, 

the rules which governed me in this inquiry, and which have misled me 
in it if I have gone astray. (1) If two bodies produce the same or a 
similar effect on the mind, and on examination they are found to agree 
in some of their properties and to differ in others, the common effect 
is to be attributed to the properties in which they agree, and not to those 
in which they differ. (2) Not to account for the effect of a natural ob- 
ject from the effect of an artificial object. (5) Not to account for the 
effect of any natural object from a conclusion of our reason concerning 
its uses, if a natural cause may be assigned. (4) Not to admit any deter- 
minate quantity, or any relation of quantity, as the cause of a certain 
effect, if the effect is produced by different or opposite measures and 
relations 5 or if these measures and relations may exist, and yet the effect 
may not be produced. 10 

It is not possible to accept these rules without some reservations. The 
first is the uncontrolled Method of Agreement, and ignores the pos- 
sibility of plurality of causes. The fourth rule is really two: the first 
of these, that no given measure can be the cause if other measures also 

Edmund Burke 85 

yield the effect, again denies plurality of causes ; the second, that if 
the given measure is in some instances not followed by the effect it 
cannot be the cause, is just if corrected to read, "cannot be the whole 
cause." This is a fragmentary system of induction at best, scarcely 
rising above the Method of Agreement save for a negative application 
of the Joint Method of Agreement and Difference. But the inade- 
quacy of theoretical formulation of decisive inductive methods is not 
crucial if they are nonetheless employed in practice, and Burke does 
employ them, though not with the definitive results which would 
have followed from a conscious awareness of their implications and 

The second and third rules of Burke's listing are just consequences 
of an analytic philosophy, insisting upon the investigation of the 
parts before the whole and upon the priority of immediate to mediate 
causal connections. Burke's procedure is thus analytical to separate 
the components of complex objects 5 inductive to determine through 
observation the effects of the "principles" thus isolated, experiential 
to compare the results computed from these simple laws with the ex- 
perienced nature of the complex objects involving them. Burke is 
really following what J. S. Mill terms the Inverse Deductive Method: 
once induction has established tentatively certain empirical generali- 
zations, Burke deduces from (what he takes to be) established laws of 
human nature the middle principles which account for the empirical 
correlations and verify them. This method is that best adapted to the 
nature of aesthetic phenomena, where plurality of causes and inter- 
mixture of effects often baffle attempts at steady ascending induction. 
It is quite wide of the mark to describe Burke's method as "a faulty 
rationalism imposed upon an incomplete empiricism" and to urge, 
presumably as a criticism, that "a priori principles are constantly ap- 
plied, and, actually, the progress is made almost entirely because of 
such principles." n I urge, in contrast, that no progress can be made 
with a purely empirical and inductive method in a derivative science 
like aesthetics ; that Burke's effort, though inadequate and often ill- 
performed, is in general rightly oriented. 

To his second edition Burke prefixed an essay "On Taste," another 
of the many demonstrations of a standard, and appropriate enough 
as introduction to the Sublime and Beautiful, for as Burke remarks, 
"if taste has no fixed principles, if the imagination is not affected ac- 
cording to some invariable and certain laws, our labour is likely to be 
employed to very little purpose 5 as it must be judged an useless, if 
not an absurd undertaking, to lay down rules for caprice and to set up 

86 Beautijul and Sublime 

for a legislator of whims and fancies." 12 After a caveat against defin- 
ing a priori, Burke hazards the fro temf>ore definition: "I mean by 
the word taste no more than that faculty or those faculties of the mind 
which are affected with, or which form a judgment of, the works of 
imagination and the elegant arts." 13 This statement has the unhappy 
effect of confining taste to art to the exclusion of nature, unless the 
phrase "works of imagination" is taken in a sense licentiously broad j 
it is not, of course, Burke's intention so to limit taste. There follows 
the analysis of the faculties which are conversant with such "works": 
the senses, the imagination, the judgment. The argument is, that the 
senses and imaginations of all men respond alike in principle to ex- 
ternal objects, and that in consequence "it must necessarily be allowed 
that the pleasures and the pains which every object excites in one man, 
it must raise in all mankind, whilst it operates, naturally, simply, and 
by its proper powers only, for if we deny this, we must imagine that 
the same cause operating in the same manner, and on subjects of the 
same kind, will produce different effects, which would be highly ab- 
surd." 14 The obvious difference among the responses of men's senses 
and imaginations to objects of taste are attributable either to differ- 
ences in degree of natural sensibility or to differences in attention to 
the object 5 but the chief variations in taste arise from differences in 
judgment. Variation of judgment, however, no more in matters of 
taste than in matters of "naked reason" implies absence of a standard. 
Taste, then, 

in its most general acceptation, is not a simple idea, but is partly made 
up of a perception of the primary pleasures of sense, of the secondary 
pleasures of the imagination, and of the conclusions of the reasoning 
faculty, concerning the various relations of these, and concerning the 
human passions, manners and actions. . . . [The] groundwork of all 
these is the same in the human mind; for as the senses are the great 
originals of all our ideas, and consequently of all our pleasures, if they 
are not uncertain and arbitrary, the whole groundwork of taste is com- 
mon to all, and therefore there is a sufficient foundation for a conclusive 
reasoning on these matters. 15 

It must be noted that Burke avoids recourse to internal senses, solving 
the problem wholly in terms of the conventional faculties, and in this 
regard Burke stands apart from Hutcheson, Gerard, and Kames. 
There are two ways in which aestheticians may avoid the postulation 
of special aesthetic facilities: by explaining aesthetic responses in 
terms of association of ideas, and by tracing them to the action in cer- 

Edmund Burke 87 

tain modes of other faculties. Burke, it will become clear, adopts both 
of these devices. 

Burke's theory of the sublime and beautiful led him to reject the 
Addisonian tradition making novelty co-ordinate with the qualities of 
beauty and sublimity. Accordingly, the opening section of Burke's 
inquiry is devoted to the pleasure of novelty, arguing that although 
some degree of novelty is necessary "in every instrument which works 
upon the mind," 16 the permanent attractions and repulsions of ob- 
jects must depend on other sources of pain and pleasure. It is in the 
ensuing discussion of pleasure and pain that Burke's originality makes 
itself felt. His is a two-fluid theory: pain and pleasure are both posi- 
tive qualities, and the removal of one is thus not equivalent to the 
addition of the other. "What I advance," Burke declares, "is no more 
than this : first, that there are pleasures and pains of a positive and in- 
dependent nature $ and secondly, that the feeling which results from 
the ceasing or diminution of pain does not bear a sufficient resem- 
blance to positive pleasure to have it considered as of the same nature, 
or to entitle it to be known by the same name 5 and thirdly, that upon 
the same principle the removal or qualification of pleasure has no re- 
semblance to positive pain." 17 The discrimination of relative pleasure, 
that arising from the remission of pain T from absolute pleasure is the 
foundation of Burke's distinction of the <uiK1imft from the beautiful. 

"Delight" and "pleasure" are the terms which Burke hoped to 
affix to the two species of agreeable sensation 5 and the next^step in 
the argument is to specify the causes and objects of those feelings 
which are pleasant or delightful. Agreeing with the sentimental sys- 
tem of ethics, Burke finds passions both selfish and social to be natural 
and original in man. The selfish passions, concerned with self-preser- 
vation, turn on pain and danger hence on delight rather than pleas- 
ure, insofar as they are agreeable at all. And it is on these that the 
sublime is based: "Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of 
pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is 
conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous 
to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the 
strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling." 18 Burke 
does not say note well that the sublime is always terrible 5 it is 
either terrible, ~~or associated with something terrible, or acts upon us 
like the terrible. In fact, Burke really avoids the false issue, whether 
fe~ar be sublime, or humbling and incompatible with the sublime 5 19 
for he insists that "when danger or pain press too nearly, they are in- 

88 Beauttjul and Sublime 

capable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible, but at certain 
distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are 
delightful, as we every day experience." 20 Again, Burke urges that 
the self-glorying of the soul is "never more perceived, nor operates 
with more force, than when without danger we are conversant with 
terrible objects. . . ." 21 Sublimity is "tranquillity tinged with ter- 
ror." 22 Gerard simultaneously with Burke was urging the agreeable- 
ness of the terrific, though he gave an explanation on different prin- 
ciples j before Gerard and Burke, no aesthetician had found the fear- 
ful, considered in itself, a source of aesthetic satisfaction. 23 

The social passions, which may all in one way or another afford 
positive pleasure, are of two sorts: those pertaining to "the society of 
the sexes" and those regarding "that more general society which we 
have with men and with other animals, and which we may in some 
sort be said to have even with the inanimate world." 24 Beauty hu- 
man beauty has its special function in directing the sexual feelings 
towards particular individuals, though the sentiment of beauty is not 
itself sexual in nature. Of the passions pertaining to general society, 
three sympathy, imitation, ambition are of peculiar importance 
for aesthetics 5 and of these, two sympathy and ambition may pro- 
duce delight as well as pleasure. Sympathy causes us to feel what 
others feelj imitation to do as others do, and to take pleasure in de- 
tecting imitation 5 ambition to excel. 

The effects of sympathy lead Burke to that persistent crux, the 
pleasure of tragedy. He cuts the knot by arguing that we delight in 
the real distresses of others, not only in imitated distress; hence 
"there is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue as that of some uncommon 
and grievous calamity . . . [which] always touches with delight. 
This is not an unmixed delight, but blended with no small uneasi- 
ness. The delight we have in such things hinders us from shunning 
scenes of misery5 and the pain we feel prompts us to relieve ourselves 
in relieving those who suffer 5 and all this antecedent to any reason- 
ing, by an instinct that works us to its own purposes without our con- 
currence." 25 Compulsive and instinctual attraction to suffering is a 
principle noted before Burke by Hutcheson and after him by Kames, 
but neither of these writers developed such a paradox as Burke's 
delight in witnessing suffering. 28 Thus with real distress 5 in an imi- 
tated distress, as Burke truly says, the only difference can be in the 
circumstance of imitation itself. It is not that consciousness of fiction 
relieves us, for "the nearer [the imitation] approaches the reality, and 
the further it removes us from all idea of fiction, the more perfect is 

Edmund Burke 89 

its power." 27 Rather, the imitation as such affords pleasure, including 
(I presume) that from artistry and the means of imitation. It re- 
mains the case, however, that the greater part of our response is the 
delight inexplicably attached to sympathy with distress, which delight 
is still more keen in actuality than in poetry. This explanation runs 
counter to the usual observation that the reality of a tragic scene is 
painful and only the imitation agreeable 5 and it is not without other 
problems. Not only is there the curious delight in pity itself, but the 
question is suggested, why should we not bring about tragic situations 
in order to experience this delight? To avoid this consequence, it ap- 
pears to me that a second fiction must be introduced, a sense of duty 
which will oppose so natural a desire. Burke was not (in view of these 
difficulties) followed by any other writer, and Richard Payne Knight 
wrote a witty and destructive analysis of Burke's account. 28 

So much for sympathy. Imitation in art provides a positive pleas- 
ure often keen enough to overcome the effect of repellent originals ; 
Burke has no notion of conversion of the passions, however, and as 
the effect of a displeasing original is thus simply subducted from the 
pleasure of the imitation, there is no encouragement to artists to deal 
with such subjects. 

Ambition, finally, may join with the selfish passions concerned with 
self-preservation to produce the sublime: 

Now, whatever, either on good or upon bad grounds, tends to raise a 
man in his own opinion, produces a sort of swelling and triumph that 
is extremely grateful to the human mind; and this swelling is never more 
perceived, nor operates with more force, than when without danger we 
are conversant with terrible objects, the mind always claiming to itself 
some part of the dignity and importance of the things which it contem- 
plates. Hence proceeds what Longinus has observed of that glorying and 
sense of inward greatness that always fills the reader of such passages 
in poets and orators as are sublime. . . , 29 

The sublime, then, is a twofold movement of the soul, a response to 
the object and a self-reflection, as Baillie and Gerard had already 
found it to be; it excites delight from presenting ideas of pain and 
danger without actually afflicting us, and it is accompanied with self- 
glorification of the soul for conceiving such objects with equanimity. 

"The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when 
those causes operate most powerfully," Burke declares, "is astonish- 
ment $ and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its mo- 
tions are suspended with some degree of horror." 30 The very word 

go Beautiful and Sublime 

"astonishment" as also "awe," "admiration," "reverence," "re- 
spect," all which designate inferior effects of the sublime implies the 
connection of the sublime with the terrific. 31 Burke himself stressed 
the evidence of language in associating fear with astonishment and 
related passions. 32 

Whatever is terrible to sight, then, is if so facto sublime, and ob- 
scurity is in general necessary to make anything very terrible, for "it 
is our ignorance of things that causes all our admiration and chiefly 
excites our passions." "A clear idea," Burke adds in the second edition, 
"is therefore another name for a little idea." 33 Power, too, is a source 
of the sublime, because of its association with violence, pain, and ter- 
ror $ those instances in which power is stripped of all danger serve to 
prove that its influence is indeed the consequence of its association with 
terror. "All general privations," Burke continues, "are great, because 
they are all terrible ; Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude, and Silence"** 
Greatness of dimension, too, is sublime, and infinity fills the mind 
with that "delightful horror" which is the essential effect of sub- 
limity, an effect which is approximated by the "artificial infinite" of 
succession and uniformity (as in a colonnade), the imagination con- 
tinuing beyond the actual limits of the object. A work implying im- 
mense force and effort to execute it is sublime, and difficulty thus 
becomes by association a cause of sublimity. Yet other associations ac- 
count for the sublimity of extreme light or of somber colors. Such epi- 
thets as "gloomy" and "melancholy" are repeatedly applied to the 
sublime, but the associations thus alluded to are never drawn out by 
Burke, obsessed as he is with the terrific. 

The sublimity of all these properties is clearly traceable to associ- 
ation. Granted Burke's fundamental position, that original sublimity 
is a mode of terror (anticipated pain) vividly conceived but not ac- 
tually raised into a passion, it follows that such circumstances will be 
sublime as, through original efficacy, experience, education, or custom, 
are fitted to suggest terror 5 by more remote associations, accompani- 
ments of such circumstances too may become sublime. The task of the 
aesthetician should presumably be to trace out the various classes of 
associations $ and Burke, though he does not in Part ii attempt to educe 
an explicit analysis in these terms, seems certainly to point to it. The 
sublime, we are told, is produced by whatever is terrible, or is "con- 
versant about" terrible objects (association of ideas), or operates like 
terror (association of impressions) $ again, everything sublime either 
directly suggests danger, or is a modification of power (which is as- 

Edmund Burke 91 

sociated with danger), or produces a similar effect from a "mechanical 
cause." 35 The only thing in all this which is not clearly association is 
the "mechanical cause" which operates like terror. Even this, however, 
could be given a psychological interpretation in terms of the tendency 
of imagination to extend and extrapolate observed tendencies (as 
with the "artificial infinite"). 

It comes, then, as a surprise to discover, in Part iv, that association 
is not so much an explanation of the sublime as a confusing obstacle 
in the path of inquiry, one which is to be got out of the way. Burke 
pronounces that it would be "to little purpose to look for the cause of 
our passions in association, until we fail of it in the natural properties 
of things." 36 Abstractly, this is a sound methodological point: cer- 
tainly find the immediate causes first, then look for the mediate and 
remote. But what are the immediate causes which Burke detects? Not 
ideal, not pathetic, not moral but physiological. Pain and fear (we 
are told) consist in "an unnatural tension of the nerves" 37 and 
Burke means this tension to be a literal stretching. The causal con- 
nection is reversible: if the nerves are stretched (by some "mechani- 
cal cause") a feeling like pain or terror will be produced. All that 
remains is, that Burke should show how this can become agreeable 5 
and this is easy, for it is a commonplace that moderate exercise tones 
up the body. To have the nerves "in proper order, they must be 
shaken and worked to a proper degree." 38 "As common labour," 
Burke continues, 

which is a mode of pain, is the exercise of the grosser, a mode of terror 
is the exercise of the finer parts of the system; and if a certain mode of 
pain be of such a nature as to act upon the eye or the ear, as they are 
the most delicate organs, the affection approaches more nearly to that 
which has a mental cause. In all these cases, if the pain and terror are 
so modified as not to be actually noxious; if the pain is not carried to 
violence, and the terror is not conversant about the present destruction 
of the person, as these emotions clear the parts, whether fine or gross, 
of a dangerous and troublesome encumbrance, they are capable of pro- 
ducing delight; not pleasure, but a sort of delightful horror, a sort of 
tranquillity tinged with terror; which, as it belongs to self-preservation, 
is one of the strongest of all the passions. Its object is the sublime. 39 

Here is the system, complete in all its parts. Already difficulties 
crowd upon us. The sublime should be, by this account, simply a 
weaker degree of terror enough to tone up but not to overstretch 
the nerves. But this is not conformable to experience, for an emotion 

g 2 Beautiful and Sublime 

of the sublime may be far stronger than a faint emotion of terror 
somewhere a qualitative difference must come in, and this cannot 
be on Burke's mechanical hypothesis. 

Burke undertakes to show that the various sublime properties, 
properties appealing to all the external senses, all cause tension of 
the nerves. A vast object, for instance, consists of more points which 
must be imaged on the retina, and consequently produces a more 
violent vibration of that membrane. As Payne Knight later suggested 
with some sarcasm, one's pen a foot away makes a greater impres- 
sion on the retina than Salisbury steeple at a mile, and the sheet of 
paper on which one writes would be more sublime than the Peak 
of Teneriffe. 40 Even if we allow for the modification of the actual 
sense impression by habitual judgment ("improved perception") 
and it is difficult to see how Burke can allow for this there is the 
further difficulty that "the ideas of great and small are terms almost 
entirely relative to the species of the objects, which are infinite," 41 
as Burke well puts it. This is association: how is it to be reconciled 
with the stretching of nerves and muscles which know nothing of the 
species of things? The artificial infinite is fortunately susceptible of 
a more satisfactory explanation on Burke's hypothesis through the 
analogy to the percussion and vibration of stretched cords. But this 
fiction becomes absurd again when we read that darkness and the 
resulting dilatation of the pupils, by distending the muscles of the 
iris produce a species of pain allied to the sublime. Goldsmith pointed 
out that the ins really relaxed in dilating j but Burke rejoined in 
his second edition with the argument that the radial antagonist 
muscles were distended in dilatation. 42 One wonders whether fogged 
spectacles would produce sublimity 5 that Burke should give such a 
line of reasoning preference over his own obvious associational ac- 
count (Part iv, sec. 14) illustrates pretty vividly the power of system 
to wrest data into conformity. This physiological theory was reck- 
oned an absurdity even in the eighteenth century, and Uvedale Price, 
Burke's most vigorous champion, laid slight stress on the physiology, 
unobtrusively shifting most of the superstructure onto new founda- 
tions. 43 

Beauty, for Burke, is "that quality or those qualities in bodies by 
which they cause love, or some passion similar to it." Love, in turn, 
is "that satisfaction which arises to the mind upon contemplating 
anything beautiful." " This neat circle is not a flaw in the argument, 
however, but only indicates that the basic emotions can be designated 
but not described. Before entering upon his own analysis, Burke 

Edmund Burke 93 

pauses to brush aside erroneous theories. He has little trouble in 
showing that beauty is not resolvable into proportion. The ratios o 
proportion must operate either mechanically, or customarily, or 
through fitness. 45 But since pleasing proportions are infinitely various, 
and since, indeed, beauty is often most perfect when proportion is 
least conspicuous, proportion can not be a necessary cause of beauty. 
Definite measures have, then, no natural power, but custom (it might 
be argued) may adapt us to certain proportions within each species. 
Burke replies with a distinction: violation of the usual measures of 
a species produces deformity but not ugliness. Conformity to these 
measures is mediocre, indifferent to the passions, and quite distinct 
from beauty. Beauty, indeed, is so far from being an adjunct of cus- 
tom that it strikes us by its novelty as much as does the deformed. 46 
Proportion may be conceived, finally, as the suitableness of means to 
ends. Burke does not deny that perception of fitness is pleasurable 
but to term fitness "beauty" is a usage figurative and improper. 
The snout of the hog is not lovely because adapted to its office, such 
fitness produces only acquiescence of the understanding and cool ap- 
probation the imagination and passions are untouched. "On the 
whole," Burke concludes, 

if such parts in human bodies as are found proportioned, were likewise 
constantly found beautiful, as they certainly are not; or if they were 
so situated, as that a pleasure might flow from the comparison, which 
they seldom are; or if any assignable proportions were found, either in 
plants or animals, which were always attended with beauty, which never 
was the case; or if, where parts were well adapted to their purposes, they 
were constantly beautiful, and when no use appeared, there was no 
beauty, which is contrary to all experience; we might conclude that 
beauty consisted m proportion or utility. But since, in all respects, the 
case is quite otherwise; we may be satisfied that beauty does not depend 
on these, let it owe its origin to what else it will. 47 

It is unfortunate that Burke did not differentiate fitness from design 
and utility. Design, with the intellectual and moral traits it implies, 
and utility, with the human concerns and feelings it touches, both 
appeal more strongly to imagination and emotion than fitness in the 
more circumscribed sense. Burke's doctrine on fitness itself, however, 
was influential, and most later aestheticians who treated the relation 
at length considered it a negative beauty, absence of which is felt 
more keenly than its presence. 

Burke is concerned also to discourage declamation about the beauty 
of virtue. "The general application of this quality to virtue," he 

94 Beautijul and Sublime 

declares, "has a strong tendency to confound our ideas of things; 
and it has given rise to an infinite deal of whimsical theory. . . . 
This loose and inaccurate manner of speaking has therefore misled 
us both in the theory of taste and of morals, and induced us to re- 
move the science of our duties from their proper basis (our reason, 
our relations, and our necessities) to rest it upon foundations alto- 
gether visionary and unsubstantial." 48 Some virtues, nonetheless, are 
analogous to beauty those softer merits "which engage our hearts, 
which impress us with a sense of loveliness." Those virtues "which 
cause admiration, and are of the sublimer kind, produce terror rather 
than love. . . ," 49 This division of virtues into soft and severe, 
amiable and venerable, reaches back at least as far as Cicero, but 
Burke's relating it to his dichotomy of self-preservation and society, 
and to the beautiful and sublime in nature, is perhaps original. 

If beauty does not depend upon proportion or fitness nor yet, in 
general, upon virtue, Burke concludes "that beauty is, for the greater 
part, some quality in bodies acting mechanically upon the human mind 
by the intervention of the senses." 50 The properties which so act 
prove to be smallness, smoothness, gradual variation, delicacy, and 
colors of various hues, of low saturation and high brilliance. Each 
of these traits was already or was to become the focus of aesthetic 
controversy. That the beautiful must be small is the point most con- 
troverted, but usually because of systematic differences which giye 
the term "beauty" varying significances. William Gilpin, for in- 
stance, argues that there is a species of beauty exciting admiration 
and respect more than love 5 51 but this contention stems from the 
circumstance that Gilpin does not radically distinguish the sublime 
from the beautiful, considering all objects yielding serious aesthetic 
pleasure to be beautiful, and the sublime and picturesque to be sub- 
species with additional differentiae, Aristotle (it will be recalled) had 
remarked that beauty implies greatness of body, that small people 
may be "pretty" but not beautiful. The Aristotelian distinction be- 
tween prettiness and beauty is echoed, perhaps unwittingly (though 
Thomas Twining had commented on classical ideas of beauty and 
size in his commentary on the Poetics), by Uvedale Price ; consist- 
ently with his own system, Price argues for beauty as a golden mean 
between grandeur and prettiness. 52 Dugald Stewart follows Price 
and Twining; 53 and Payne Knight analyzes associations which may 
make either the large or the small beautiful in different instances. 54 
None of these writers except Price, however, attempts a systematic 
opposition of the sublime and the beautiful, and even Price departs 

Edmund Burke 95 

from Burke's principles though adhering to his dichotomy. Burke 
himself concedes an aesthetic pleasure from largeness conjoined with 
all or most of the other traits of beauty $ objects exhibiting this com- 
bination he terms "fine" or "specious." 55 This distinction goes a good 
way towards resolving the apparent conflict, for the "beautiful," the 
"handsome," the "beau" of writers not concerned to make a sharp 
differentiation between sublime and beautiful are much like Burke's 

Even smoothness, where Burke finds a near consensus in his sup- 
port, can be denied as a predicate of beauty. Richard Payne Knight 
was later to urge by a subtle argument that strictly visible beauty de- 
pends on broken light and color, that it is incompatible with the 
harsh reflections from smooth objects, and that the beauty of smooth- 
ness depends upon association. 56 

Burke appears to have written this portion of the Sublime and 
Beautiful before Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty came to hand, for in 
his second edition he drew upon Hogarth to support his contention 
for the beauty of gradual variation. Burke's criticism of Hogarth is 
not searching, for he does not penetrate to Hogarth's principles, and 
his correction of Hogarth for allowing angularity to be beautiful 
(Hogarth does admit an inferior degree of beauty to various angu- 
larity) is another logomachy like that over the beauty of large ob- 
jects. Burke himself admits another category, the "elegant," which ' 
is characterized by regularity, and regularity may well be usually , 
is angular. "When any body is composed of parts smooth and 
polished, without pressing upon each other, and without showing any 
ruggedness or confusion, and at the same time affecting some regular 
shafe, I call it elegant. It is closely allied to the beautiful, differing 
from it only in this regularity; which, however, as it makes a very 
material difference in the affection produced, may very well constitute 
another species. Under this head I rank those delicate and regular 
works of art, that imitate no determinate object in nature, as elegant 
buildings and pieces of furniture." 57 Here again Burke is led by his 
desire to oppose the beautiful to the sublime to limit the beautiful 
very narrowly, and to cast into other and inferior categories much 
which other writers comprehend under beauty. 

Beyond the physical beauty on which Burke's emphasis principally 
falls, there is a beauty of expression in the face and a beauty or grace 
of posture and motion. And these visual beauties (like visual sub- 
limity) have their analogies in the other senses* There is a beauty 
of touch consisting in smoothness, softness, gradual variation, mod- 

g 6 Beautiful and Sublime 

erate warmth, 5S a beauty of sound, clear, even, smooth, and weak, 
without any great variety or quick transitions to disturb "that sinking, 
that melting, that languor, which is the characteristical effect of the 
beautiful as it regards every sense" 5 59 and a beauty, finally, of smell 
and taste smoothness and sweetness. These beauties of the various 
senses serve once again as the instances to which the Method of 
Agreement is to be applied in ferreting out the common causes. The 
common effect an inward sense of melting and languor (together 
with a somewhat comic collocation of outward manifestations) sug- 
gests at once, to a mind attuned to the suggestion, "that beauty acts 
by relaxing the solids of the whole system." 60 As before, Burke con- 
firms this hypothesis by showing that each constituent of beauty has 
separately a tendency to relax the fibers: smoothness to touch is mani- 
festly relaxing, and heads the train 5 smoothness and sweetness to 
taste, gradual variation, smallness, and color follow in sequence. 

The inferiority of fineness to beauty is accounted for through the 
combination in fineness of qualities which are inconsistent in their 
physiological effects: "The affection produced by large bodies adorned 
by the spoils of beauty, is a tension continually relieved $ which ap- 
proaches to the nature of mediocrity." 61 Presumably the regularity 
of the elegant, by taking off from the various and even flow of the 
beautiful, is similarly inferior. And although the sublime and beauti- 
ful are often commingled, each very naturally produces its best effect 
when pure: "If the qualities of the sublime and beautiful are some- 
times found united, does this prove that they are the same 5 does it 
prove that they are any way allied $ does it prove even that they are 
not opposite and contradictory?" 62 

A fifth part of the Sublime and Beautiful treats of the production 
of sublimity and beauty through words, and is a conventional appli- 
cation of the assodational theory to language. Understandably, how- 
ever, it is this part of the treatise which has proved most attractive 
to modern literary scholars. McKenzie judges this the most interest- 
ing part of the inquiry because Burke is "directly opposed to the no- 
tion of his contemporaries that the power of poetry depends upon 
specific imagery. . . ," 63 And William Guild Howard finds here 
the germs of Lessing's differentiations of poetry from painting: 
"Painting, then," Howard concludes, "presents ideas through clear 
images affecting the mind but little 5 poetry stirs the emotions through 
obscure images, or without raising images at all." 64 

Burke himself had urged simply that words produce three effects 

Edmund Burke 97 

in the mind of the hearer the sound, the picture, and the affection of 
soul produced by either or both of the foregoing. In terms of their 
meanings, words are distinguished by Burke into aggregate ("such as 
represent many simple ideas united by nature to form some one de- 
terminate composition"), simple abstract (which "stand for one sim- 
ple idea of such compositions"), and compound abstract ("formed 
by an union, an arbitrary union of both the others, and of the various 
relations between them"). 65 Aggregate words, that is, are names of 
substances, abstract words of attributes j simple abstracts are the 
names of single qualities or connected groups (for "square" one of 
Burke's instances is surely no simple idea!); compound abstracts 
are names of complexes which are not even apparently simple. Now, 
the compound abstracts produce only the first and third of the pos- 
sible effects of words j they operate "not by presenting any image to 
the mind, but by having from use the same effect on being men- 
tioned, that their original has when it is seen." 66 And though aggre- 
gate and simple abstract words can raise images, they commonly do 
not do so in the hurry of actual use, and operate just as do the com- 
pound abstract. The power of words to raise affections is little hin- 
dered by the absence of the image, however 5 the "picturesque con- 
nection is not demanded, because no real picture is formed, nor is the 
effect of the description at all the less upon this account." 67 Words, 
indeed, may affect us even more strongly than the things they repre- 
sent, for they carry the contagion of sympathy and impassioned ex- 
pression, represent things which may be seldom or never experienced 
in reality, and combine circumstances in a way more affecting than 

This whole account is associational compare it, for instance, with 
Hume's study of abstract words in the Treatise of Human Nature 
When McKenzie speaks of Burke's "disregard of association," he is 
thinking of the association of particular ideas in the form of images, 
instead of association of mental habits with the sound of words$ it 
may be granted, however, that Burke deserves credit for popularizing 
an important idea in criticism when the general taste was, as McKen- 
zie says, "for images that were accurate, clear, vivid, and special." 69 
Howard, however, errs in thinking that the usual absence of distinct 
images in poetry allocates poetry to the sublime, and that the clear 
ideas of painting allocate it to the beautiful - y in noting that "paintings 
are apt to be comparatively small, and suggestive of smoothness 5 
their figures are of undulating, or at least not angular outline 5 they 

gS Beautiful and Sublime 

are delicate, not glaring, but diversified in color," Howard confuses 
inextricably the painting as an object with the painting as an imita- 

tion. 70 

Burke never revised or expanded his theory after the second edi- 
tion. When years later, in 1789, Malone proposed to him to rework 
the Sublime and Beautiful, "which the experience, reading, and ob- 
servation of thirty years could not but enable him to improve con- 
siderably," Burke replied that the whole bent of his mind had been 
turned from such subjects so that he was less fitted for such specula- 
tions than in youth, and that in any event a the subject was then new, 
but several writers have since gone over the same ground, Lord 
Kames and others." 71 Somewhat earlier, however in 1773 Burke 
had agreed to write an article on aesthetics, including an abstract of 
the Sublime and Beautiful, for a "Dictionary of the Arts and Sci- 
ences" which Goldsmith projected but which was never actually un- 
dertaken. 72 It is very probable that Burke would have had nothing 
to add to his treatise in later life, and it is very doubtful that he 
would have desired to subtract from it; the book stands an isolated 
monument of speculation. There is a tendency among aestheticians 
and scholars, unhappily, to regard the Sublime and Beautiful as valu- 
able chiefly for its collection of aesthetic data but as negligible philo- 
sophically. Lessing, writing to Moses Mendelssohn, said of Burke as 
early as 1758, "Das heisst ohne Zweifel sehr commode philosophiren! 
Doch, wenn schon des Verfassers Grundsatze nicht viel taugen, so ist 
sein Buch doch als eine Sammlung aller Eraugnungen und Wahr- 
nehmungen, die der Philosoph bey dergleichen Untersuchungen als 
unstreitig annehmen muss, ungemein brauchbar. Er hat alle 
Materialen zu einem guten System gesammlet. . . ." 73 And this 
condescending judgment has been often echoed since. I cannot share 
it 5 if the physiological theory of Part iv were replaced by a more 
thorough analysis of association if it were simply deleted the Sub- 
lime and Beautiful would remain a brilliant if incomplete system, of 
merit not historical but absolute and permanent. 


J^ord Barnes 

F I AHE Elements of Criticism of Henry Home, Lord Kames, re- 
J,. mains today one of the most elaborate and systematic treatises 
on aesthetics and criticism of any age or nation 5 and it ranks, along- 
side Archibald Alison's Essays on Taste, as the major effort of philo- 
sophical criticism in eighteenth-century Britain. The Elements went 
through six editions within a dozen years of its first publication in 
17625 and more than thirty subsequent editions in the United States 
and Britain, editions both complete and abridged, testify to the 
widespread and prolonged reputation of Lord Kames. 1 But with the 
gradual predominance of German philosophy during the nineteenth 
century, the Elements lost its influence among thinkers, though it 
continued in use as a textbook 5 and Bosanquet, writing in 1892, men- 
tions only a few scattered thoughts of "Kaimes," treating them as 
stimuli to or anticipations of Lessing. 2 

Notwithstanding the obscurity in which the Elements is now in- 
volved, the extensive and various aesthetic and critical system it pro- 
pounds remains of singular philosophical interest. Kames had some 
pretensions as a metaphysician, and the examination of his aesthetics 
should begin, accordingly, with an exposition of his metaphysics $ that 
metaphyics is developed in the first two chapters and Appendix 
("Terms Defined or Explained") of the Elements > and in the Essays 
on the Principles of MoraUty and Natural Religion (Edinburgh, 
1751). The Appendix is of especial importance, for the "definitions" 
are arranged not as a glossary but in a logical sequence which gives a 
succinct conspectus of the system. 

Like other philosophers after Descartes, Kames seeks principles in 
the contents of the mind. And although he writes before publication 
of any of the treatises of the Scottish school, he anticipates the Scot- 
tish answers to Hume 5 his philosophy has a reactionary cast, and his 


IOO Beautiful and Sublime 

effort is constantly to reassert the truths obscured by the skepticism 
of Berkeley and Hume the identity of the self, the reality of the 
external world, the existence and attributes of the Deity. These ob- 
jectives are achieved largely through appeal to a variety of "senses," 
faculties giving intuitive knowledge of the outer and inner worlds. 
The most striking characteristic of Kames's thought, a trait which 
he shares with the entire Scottish school, is thejiendengfjo reduce 
every phenomenon directly to some sense or intuitionjpeculiarly de^_ 
JProvidential design. Analysis, so prommentin Hume's 
thought the reductioiTof a givenTange of phenomena to other and 
more basic phenomena is minimal in the philosophy of Lord Kames j 
in place of Hume's analytical subtlety in reducing all phenomena to 
a very few principles, there is a vast proliferation of principles appro- 
priated to the various classes of phenomena, all attested by an appeal 
to sense and feeling. "Fond of arguments drawn from the nature of 
things," cautions Kames, "we are too apt to apply such arguments 
without discretion j and to call that demonstration, which, at bottom, 
is nothing but a conviction from sense and feeling. Our perceptions, 
which work silently, and without effort, are apt to be overlooked 5 
and we vainly imagine, we can demonstrate every proposition, which 
we perceive to be true." 3 Hume is repeatedly criticized for substi- 
tuting subtle reasoning in place of the plainest feelings j and no doubt 
he would counter with the observation that Kames takes every asso- 
ciation of ideas or impressions for a direct perception. 

Treatises on aesthetics, like other intellectual efforts, are liable to 
two opposed defects. A writer may seek out in remote corners of the 
intellectual world the scattered and dismembered parts in order to 
form from these heterogeneous members the complete and perfect 
body of truth 5 or, pitching upon some few principles as indemon- 
strable verities, he may seek to re-create from these an image of the 
universe in all its variety. The world of experience can impose itself 
upon us in kaleidoscopic complexity, or it can be forced upon the 
Procrustean bed of a rigid dogmatism j and if Hume falls occasion- 
ally into the latter error, Kames rarely emerges from the former. 

It is not easy to give an orderly presentation of Kames's metaphy- 
sics, for neither the Elements nor the Essays is a metaphysical work: 
psychology enters one as part of the groundwork of a system of 
morals and theology, the other as substructure to a system of aes- 
thetics and criticism. There are no differences in doctrine between 
the two works, although the emphasis and order of presentation vary. 
In the Essays, the chief end is the explanation of our knowledge of 

Lord Kames 1 01 

Deity, and the order of development is determined towards this con- 
clusion. The second, and more speculative, part begins with the ex- 
amination of belief, and Kames's judgment is that "there is a certain 
peculiar manner of perceiving objects, and conceiving propositions, 
which, being a simple feeling, cannot be described, but is expressed 
by the word belief. . . . [All belief], mediately or immediately, is 
founded upon the authority of our senses. We are so constituted by 
nature, as to put trust in our senses. Nor, in general, is it in our power 
to disbelieve our senses: they have authority with us irresistible." 4 
This authority is not difficult to establish. There is an original feel- 
ing or consciousness of self, for instance, which accompanies all, or 
virtually all, other impressions, ideas, and actions, and which is the 
basis of personal identity. Perception of the self is direct, moreover, 
whereas all other subjects are known through attributes, a circum- 
stance which makes self-consciousness the most vivid of perceptions. 5 
Nor is the authority of the external senses more difficult to support, 
since Kames takes as unanalysable any feeling or perception which 
seems strong and decisive. Sight and touch perceive not only an as- 
semblage of qualities but a substratum in which the qualities inhere 
a substratum termed "substance" in the case of sight, "body" in that 
of touch. "That the objects of our senses really exist in the way and 
manner we perceive," Kames declares, "is a branch of intuitive knowl- 
edge." 6 In a lengthy note added to the third edition of the Elements^ 
Kames observes that from Aristotle onwards the fallacy has imposed 
itself upon mankind, that the immediate objects of perception are in 
the mind 5 and Kames's own anticipation of Reid is evident in the 
pronouncement that "an impression may be made upon us, by an ex- 
ternal object, in such a manner, as to raise a direct perception of the 
external object itself." 7 Until Berkeley, idealism led to little harm 
beyond confusion in metaphysics, but that divine, giving the doctrine 
a sinister turn, contrived to "annihilate totally the material world. 
And a later writer [Hume, of course], discovering that Berkeley's 
arguments might with equal success be applied against immaterial 
beings, ventures still more boldly to reject by the lump the imma- 
terial world as well as the material j leaving nothing in nature but 
images or ideas floating m *vacuo y without affording them a single 
mind for shelter or support." 8 It is perhaps one of the striking iron- 
ies in the history of philosophy that two writers each of whom thought 
he was at length placing our belief in the external world on its true 
and firm foundation, should be accused of this wild skepticism. 

Of importance, too, is the doctrine that it is possible to conceive of 

102 Beautiful and Sublime 

subjects divorced from any (though not from every) attribute. 9 Attri- 
butes, in contrast, cannot be conceived independently of their subjects, 
nor parts independently of the wholes to which they belong, al- 
though either can be represented in reasoning by abstract terms. In 
any case, perception is of the object as qualified, not of its qualities 
merely, for "as an action is not resolvable into parts, a perception, 
being, an act of sense, is always simple," however complex the ob- 
ject. 10 

It is interesting to note, before turning to Kames's aesthetics, that 
his deism depends for its philosophic justification on still more per- 
ceptions and intuitions. For we are assured of power (i.e., of causal 
force) in external objects by direct perception through the eye when 
we observe such objects to effect alterations. Kames rejects Hume's 
explanation of the feeling of necessity as mental custom, arguing 
that "power is perceived as a quality in the acting body, and by no 
means is an operation of the mind or an easy transition of thought 
from one object to another." ll Here as in so many places, Kames's 
refutations of "skepticism" depend upon an ignoratw elenM y upon 
stating the issue in such a way as to make refutation of his oppo- 
nent's views almost superfluous. The perception of power includes the 
notion that the cause is proportioned to the effect, and if the effect 
exhibits adaptation to an end, the direct perception includes the idea 
of an intelligent, designing cause if a good end, a benevolent cause 
as well. Another internal sense assures us that nature is uniform 
that, for example, the power of a cause continues to exist after the 
moment of exertion. With all this "grand apparatus of instinctive 
faculties," 12 as Lord Kames rightly terms it, it is no wonder that 
arguments for the existence and attributes of Deity can be pretty 
largely dispensed with. An intricate chain of reasoning, however, is 
devoted to explaining away the greater part of evil in the universe 
and ascribing the rest "to the pre-established order and constitution 
of things, and to the necessary imperfection of the nature of all cre- 
ated beings." 13 

The starting point of Kames's aesthetics is the observation that 
sight and hearing differ from the other senses in that they perceive 
objects at a distance, with no consciousness of organic impression and 
no sensation accompanying the perception. 14 Impressions of unusual 
intensity, to be sure, must be exceptional to this generalization 5 and 
Payne Knight was later to base one part of his aesthetic system on 
the notion that the eye is conscious of organic impression, of pleasure 
and pain, in its perceptions generally. But granting with Kames that 

Lord Kames 103 

this is a circumstance which sets perceptions of sight and hearing apart 
from those o the grosser senses, and elevates them to a position less 
inferior to the perceptions of intellect, it follows that the impressions 
of pain and pleasure accompanying visual and auditory phenomena 
not only are but seem to be in the mind. The dignity and moderately 
exhilarating character of these pleasures, are devices whereby "the 
author of nature, by qualifying the human mind for a succession of 
enjoyments from the lowest to the highest, leads it by gentle steps 
from the most groveling corporeal pleasures, for which only it is 
fitted in the beginning of life, to those refined and sublime pleasures 
which are suited to its maturity." 13 Not only do the aesthetic pleas- 
ures of nature and art have such a moral influence, but criticism it- 
self is attended with advantages intellectual and moral. Intellectu- 
ally, criticism provides a rational enjoyment 3 by strengthening our 
reasoning faculties, it prepares us gently for the more strenuous ex- 
ertions of the sciences j and by analogy it enhances our capacity for 
the reasonings which regulate conduct. Morally, the development of 
a just taste in the arts harmonizes the temper and moderates the 
selfish affections, invigorates sympathy and the social affections, and 
by cultivating "a just relish of what is beautiful, proper, elegant, and 
ornamental, in writing or painting, in architecture or gardening, is a 
fine preparation for discerning what is beautiful, just, elegant, or 
magnanimous, in character and behaviour." 16 

The pleasures of eye and ear, then, are the matter of aesthetics, 
and the Elements investigates them in order to regulate them $ "the 
following work," says Kames, in a labored dedication to George III, 
". . . treats of the fine arts, and attempts to form a standard of 
taste by unfolding those principles that ought to govern the taste 
of every individual." 17 By inquiring into "such attributes, relations, 
and circumstances, as in the fine arts are chiefly employ'd to raise 
agreeable emotions," 18 Kames aims to establish practical rules for 
the arts not in detail, but "to exhibit their fundamental principles 
drawn from human nature, the true source of criticism." 19 Indeed, 
alongside the criticism which is his declared subject, Kames admits 
that "all along he had it in view, to explain the nature of man, 
considered as a sensitive being capable of pleasure and pain. . . ." 20 

The organization of the treatise is adjusted appropriately to the 
philosophic standpoint and the results aimed at. The author's plan 
"is, to ascend gradually to principles from facts and experiments 5 in- 
stead of beginning with the former, handled abstractly, and descend- 
ing to the latter." 21 Helen Whitcomb Randall, in an ingenious and 

IO4 Beautiful and Sublime 

plausible account, shows that Kames's procedure of "ascending" from 
psychological experiments and facts to general principles of man's 
sensitive nature and then establishing the "rules" for art on those 
principles, is in accord with Newtonian philosophy. 22 But without 
wishing to depreciate Newtonian influence, I can add that the method 
has advantages in terms of Kames's own theory. It is not merely that 
the method is "empirical", it provides a natural delight. In the 
opening chapter of the Elements ("Perceptions and Ideas in a 
Train"), two points of peculiar importance for aesthetics are made: 
there is a principle of order "implanted in the breast of every man" 
which governs the arrangement of perceptions, ideas, and actions, so 
that the whole precedes the part, the principal the accessory, the 
cause the effect, and so forth ; but (secondly) this principle of order 
is counteracted in scientific reasonings and in some other cases by the 
natural delight in the dilatation of mind which results from precisely 
the opposite process of going from small to great (a modification of 
grandeur) or of ascending from particular to general (a modification 
of elevation). The method which Lord Kames adopts in the earlier 
parts of the Elements, then, by proceeding from particular observa- 
tions to general principles, satisfies this natural bent of the soul, 
though the contrary (deductive) method would have better satisfied 
the sense of order. The original resemblance of feeling between the 
movement of the mind in illation from particular effects to general 
causes and mounting upwards affords a basis, subsequently, for trans- 
ferring grandeur and sublimity from material to intellectual objects. 
The succession of perceptions and ideas, considered merely as a 
succession at a certain tempo, has itself numerous consequences for 
the arts 5 but it is the theory of "Emotions and Passions" making up 
the lengthy second chapter of the treatise which is most fruitful in 
aesthetic consequences. Passions and emotions (both internal motions 
or agitations of the mind, but different in that passions are accom- 
panied by desire 23 ) are raised through perceptions of eye and ear, and 
it is the business of art to appeal through those senses to the natural 
and cultivated capacities for agreeable passions and emotions. Kames 
works out an intricate apparatus of distinctions of passion proper 
from appetite 5 of instinctive from deliberative passions 5 of social, self- 
ish, and "dissocial" passions (which last involve no motives but 
only instinctive impulses). Only two points concerning the efficient 
causes of the emotions and passions require mention, however. The 
"sympathetic emotion of virtue," so important subsequently in the 
analysis of drama, is of a curious nature 5 for though it is accom- 

Lord Kames 105 

panied with a vague impulse to imitate the virtue exciting it when 
observed, this is an impulse without an object, analogous to the desires 
prompted by instrumental music. There appears to be no correspond- 
ing "sympathetic emotion of vice/' presumably because of an original 
repugnance to vice 3 licentious comedy, Kames notes, allures only by 
conjoining vice with wit. 24 The second point with an especial bearing 
upon criticism is the raising of emotion through ideal (as opposed to 
actual) presence of objects. Memory, fancy, or language may evoke 
an ideal presence indistinguishable, without reflection, from real 
presence, and equally productive of emotion 5 such ideal presence is 
quite different from reflective remembrance. The theater, of course, 
is the art which most completely effects ideal presence 5 painting is 
less powerful 3 and reading much less yet. (It does not, however, 
follow that painting has more power over the passions than history 
and non-dramatic poetry, for its confinement to a single point of time 
limits its influence.) 

Pleasure and pain can be treated only after this study of the effi- 
cient causes of emotions 5 and Kames is as fertile in distinctions as 
ever. "Agreeable and disagreeable," he notes, ". . . are qualities of 
the objects we perceive 5 pleasant and painful are qualities of the 
emotions we feel. . . ," 25 But emotions are sometimes taken re- 
flexively as our objects, and in such case they are felt to be agree- 
able or disagreeable, as well as pleasant or painful. Now in gen- 
eral, what is pleasant is agreeable, and what is agreeable is pleasant. 
It is invariably the case that a pleasant emotion is produced by an 
agreeable object 5 and this is not a mere tautology, since the "agree- 
ableness" is a special perception separate from the pleasure and im- 
planted in us for wise purposes. The agreeableness of emotions them- 
selves is governed by the rule that every "feeling that is conform- 
able to the common nature of our species, is perceived by us to be 
regular and as it ought to be 5 and upon that account it must appear 
agreeable." 26 It is, then, possible for painful passions which we feel 
to be "specific" to be agreeable on survey, and for pleasant passions to 
be disagreeable. 

Emotion resembles mechanical motion (Kames urges), in that it 
"requires the constant exertion of an operating cause, and ceases when 
the cause is withdrawn." 27 This denial of Newton's first law reads 
strangely for 1761 (and casts some doubt on the Newtonian char- 
acter of Kames's method), but is of a piece with other reactionary 
positions in the philosophy of Lord Kames. 28 The principles govern- 
ing the growth and decay of emotions are too complex to recount 

IO6 Beautiful and Sublime 

here; but those describing the coexistence of emotions have great 
significance aesthetically. Coexistent emotions produce from their 
combination two kinds of pleasure an additive pleasure, greater in 
proportion as the mixed emotions are more similar and more closely 
connected by their causes (a "double relation of impressions and 
ideas/ 5 as Hume would have termed it), and an harmonic pleasure 
proportioned to the similarity of the emotions and the disparity of 
their causes. Dissimilar emotions forced into union by connection of 
their causes tend to weaken one another ; totally opposite emotions, 
or dissimilar emotions arising from unconnected causes, tend to al- 
ternate until one gains the ascendant or both are obliterated. Co- 
existent passions are governed by an additional principle as well: 
fusion depends partly upon the coincidence of tendency, compatibil- 
ity of the attendant desires. This system has the elaborateness, but 
not the neatness of Hume's analysis 5 Hume's study of the passions, 
and of their four modes of interaction (vectorial addition, alterna- 
tion, chemical combination, and conversion), is more comprehensive 
in scope yet requires less proliferation of original principles. Kames 
is rich in analysis of addition and alternation, but only partly per- 
ceives the utility of conversion as an analytical device and does not 
treat the possibility of a tertwm quid except in the very different 
sense that the emotions produced by the separate qualities of a single 
visible object, or by concordant sounds, become one complex emotion. 
His aesthetic occasionally suffers from these limitations as, for in- 
stance, in the declaration that music should not accompany words 
expressing disagreeable passions because the passions and the music 
(which, to be music, must be agreeable) would conflict 5 this view 
belittles the power of harmony to express the disagreeable without 
being disagreeable, through conversion of the passions. 

"That many emotions or feelings bear a certain resemblance to 
their cause," Kames remarks, "is a truth that can be made clear by 
induction j though, so far as I know, the observation has not been 
made by any writer." 29 Lord Kames's frequent claims to originality 
often exceed the real limits of his innovations, and in the present 
case his originality is not entire, for (among other anticipations) 
Hogarth had remarked upon the sympathetic uneasiness from appar- 
ent instability, and Gerard had stressed the conf ormance of the mind 
to its objects, a conformance which in some cases at least is a resem- 
blance. But Kames illustrates the principle much more fully slug- 
gish motion causes a languid feeling, a low sound depresses the mind, 
an elevated object makes the spectator stand erect, &c.$ and of course 

Lord, Kames 107 

the sympathetic emotion of virtue is also an instance of this general 
truth. Certain modern aesthetics have pitched upon an aspect of this 
principle (empathy) and used it as a foundation for an entire system j 
but in the more complex systems of the eighteenth century, the prin- 
ciple remains an incidental part. 

The analysis of passions and emotions terminates with an appeal 
to final causes, and it is not surprising to discover that these feelings 
are made subservient to beneficent purposes. Nothing, indeed, is 
more characteristic of Lord Kames than the regular detection of be- 
nevolent contrivance in every phenomenon: 

By every production that shows art and contrivance, our curiosity is 
excited upon two points; first, how it was made; and, next, to what end. 
Of the two, the latter is the more important inquiry, because the means 
are ever subordinate to the end, and in fact our curiosity is always more 
inflamed by the final than by the efficient cause. This preference is no 
where more visible, than in contemplating the works of nature: if in 
the efficient cause, wisdom and power be display'd, wisdom is not less 
conspicuous in the final cause; and from it only can we infer benevolence, 
which of all the divine attributes is to man the most important. 30 

A concern to vindicate the Architect of the Universe leads very nat- 
urally to an emphasis on finality, and, deist that he is, Kames always 
sees finality as deliberate purpose. One of the conspicuous features 
of Kamesian aesthetics is the tendency to stop short in the investiga- 
tion of efficient causes usually with the postulation of a sense which 
is original and unanalyzable and to replace such investigation with 
specious indications of finality. I consider this to be a philosophical 
vice. If we have (as Lord Kames assures us we do have) an inborn 
tendency to complete any task under way, 31 and another such deter- 
mination to rejoice in order and connection, we must in consequence 
desire to see effects traced back to their ultimate efficient causes, and 
must delight in contemplating the mechanism by which few causes 
give rise to many effects. It is in finding efficiency, moreover, that 
the real difficulties lie, and it is in overcoming these that the sublim- 
ity of genius would be displayed. For if explanations are sought in 
teleology, a difficulty can be ended as readily as a purpose can be 
invented 5 if the immediate consequences of some circumstance appear 
happy, this is the final cause, and if the reverse, we turn our eye to re- 
mote and indirect consequences. No philosopher, to be sure, can ig- 
nore efficiency, and Lord Kames does not. But his concern with final- 
ity (together with a reluctance to force nature into an artificial sys- 
tem) too often leads him to dismiss the problem of efficient causation 

lo8 Beautiful and Sublime 

in too offhand a manner. When a class of mental phenomena proves 
resistant to analysis, he too readily posits an internal sense appropri- 
ated by providence for wise, or at any rate plausible, purposes. His 
human nature involves almost as many distinct causes as classes of 

The general chapter of emotions and passions is followed by a 
series of chapters treating in detail of certain emotions peculiarly per- 
tinent to aesthetics. "I propose," says Kames in one of his occasional 
indications of the plan he pursues, 

to confine my inquiries to such attributes, relations, and circumstances, 
as m the fine arts are chiefly employ'd to raise agreeable emotions. 
Attnbutes of single objects, as the most simple, shall take the lead; to be 
followed with particulars which depending on relations, are not found 
in single objects. Dispatching next some coincident matters, I proceed 
to my chief aim, which is to establish practical rules for the fine arts, 
denved from the principles above explained. 82 

The first such property is beauty, the "most noted of all the qualities 
that belong to single objects." The term "beauty," Kames assures us, 
"in its native signification, is appropriated to objects of sight." 33 
Color, figure, size, motion all the visible qualities may be beauti- 
ful j and the object in which several of these beauties coalesce yields 
a complex emotion still more pleasant. A perception so various and 
so striking easily lends its name to express anything agreeable not 
only other physical qualities but also moral and intellectual traits. 
Kames confines his analysis, however, to the literally beautiful quali- 
ties, common denominator of which is that they all produce emotions 
maintaining "one general character of sweetness and gaiety." 34 Even 
of this literal beauty there are two species: an intrinsic beauty inher- 
ent in single objects, and a relative beauty dependent on the relations 
of things. Intrinsic beauty is perceived immediately by sense ; relative 
beauty involves an intellectual recognition of fitness or utility. Yet 
relative beauty is perceived as belonging to the object, not the relation, 
for association transfers the beauty perceived from the effects to the 
object which is their cause; and beauty remains in all cases an "attri- 
bute of single objects." 

Intrinsic beauty results from size, color, motion, and figure, yet 
only the last is treated in the chapter on beauty, for size more usually 
pertains to grandeur than to beauty, the beauty of color is "too fa- 
miliar to need explanation" (one might suppose that this familiarity 

Lord Kames 109 

is what requires explanation), and motion is treated with respect to 
both beauty and grandeur in another chapter. Beauty of figure, then, 
is resolvable into regularity and simplicity as traits of the whole, and 
uniformity, proportion, and order as traits of the constituent parts. 
Kames appears to follow Addison in detecting a specific beauty not 
wholly dependent on ordinary beauty: "The beauty of the human 
figure, by a special recommendation of nature, appears to us supreme, 
amid the great variety of beauteous forms bestowed upon animals." 35 
But the remark is casual, and no stress is laid upon this specific beauty. 
Some account is given of the mechanisms by which the properties 
of general beauty please 5 simplicity, for instance, is found pleasing 
because it permits a single and more telling stroke upon the mind, 
and because the mind in elevated mood descends only with reluc- 
tance to minute ornaments. There remains, however, after all such 
explanations, a large irreducible surd. One would expect an inquiry 
how such various properties as simplicity, proportion, order, and the 
rest produce such similar effects. But this question is dismissed: "To 
enquire why an object, by means of the particulars mentioned, ap- 
pears beautiful, would, I am afraid, be a vain attempt: it seems the 
most probable opinion, that the nature of man was originally framed 
with a relish for them, in order to answer good and wise pur- 
poses" 36 purposes which are expounded forthwith. They prove to 
be truisms: beauty is an aid to apprehension 5 it adds to the delight of 
life; the determination of our nature to see it as objective attaches 
us to external objects and promotes society. 

Beauty of motion is caused by the inherent agreeableness of mo- 
tion itself, an agreeableness greatest when the motion is regular, cor- 
respondent in speed to the natural rate of flow of perceptions, accel- 
erated, upwards, and undulating. Slight explanation is given of these 
circumstances, though it is clear from Kames's own observations (that, 
for instance, undulating motion is more free and natural) that the 
phenomena could be explained in part at least by association. 

A great part of what is ordinarily termed beauty is handled by 
Kames under the general rubric of relations beauty in his own termi- 
nology being a property of single facts. His judgments on resem- 
blance and contrast are in no wise novel save in his forward-looking 
views on gardening ; the treatment of variety and uniformity, how- 
ever, is managed very skilfully in terms of the train of perceptions 
which was the starting point of the Elements, in terms of the velocity 
and variety of the train and the different modes of pain and pleasure 

1 1 Beautiful and Sublime 

which result. Kames casually demolishes the Hutchesonian law of 

It may surprise some readers, to find variety treated as only contributing 
to make a tram of perceptions pleasant, when it is commonly held to be 
a necessary ingredient in beauty of whatever kind; according to the 
definition, "That beauty consists in uniformity amid variety." But after 
the subject is explained and illustrated as above, I presume it will be 
evident, that this definition, however applicable to one or other species, 
is far from being just with respect to beauty in general* variety con- 
tributes no share to the beauty of a moral action, nor of a mathematical 
theorem; and numberless are the beautiful objects of sight that have little 
or no vanety in them. . . . The foregoing definition ... is only 
applicable to a number of objects in a group or in succession, among 
which indeed a due mixture of uniformity and vanety is always agreeable, 
provided the particular objects, separately considered, be in any degree 
beautiful, for uniformity amid vanety among ugly objects, affords no 
pleasure. 37 

It is obvious, however, that Kames understands variety in a different 
sense from that in which Hutcheson (if it is Hutcheson here alluded 
to) took it. Variety to Kames involves a succession of perceptions of 
different kinds: he can say truly, then, that there is no variety in a 
mathematical theorem. Looking at the theorem as Hutcheson did, 
however, it does exhibit unity in variety: for it is true of multitudes 
of instances which, though not actually perceived, can be conceived 
by reflection. Again, Kames speaks of a globe as the most uniform 
of figures, the least various j and it is certainly true that half a globe 
is perceived at one couy d'oeil. But the surface of a globe is changing 
direction at every point, and in this light we can say with Hutcheson 
that it exhibits maximum variety conjoined with greatest uniformity, 
in that the incessant change takes place according to a single rule. 
Such differences are not, however, a consequence merely of two 
writers taking a term "in different senses" 5 for the senses in which 
they employ the term are consequences of their general philosophic 
orientations. Hutcheson's method is analogical, and his aim is to find 
one beauty which is the essence of all the various modifications of 
beauty. Such a method and aim require that the key terms be loosely 
defined 3 if we are to speak of the "variety 53 of a still life and of a 
law of physics, we are assuredly going to use the term "variety 55 in 
a variety of senses 1 If, in contrast, method is literal and analytical, 
and the aim is to discriminate all the different aspects of things which 
are in one way or another agreeable, terms will be multiplied and 

Lord Rames III 

their meanings more narrowly ascertained. If variety is discrim- 
inated from the several species of simple beauty and from novelty, 
unexpectedness, congruity, propriety, sublimity, and so on, it is evi- 
dent that variety is not going to be the great leading trait of all 
things, physical, moral, and intellectual. 

Sublimity, like beauty, is a property of single facts, and like beauty 
has two species, though there is nothing parallel in the distinctions. 
"Nature," observes Lord Kames, "hath not more remarkably dis- 
tinguished us from the other animals by an erect posture, than by a 
capacious and aspiring mind, attaching us to every thing great and 
elevated." 38 Great magnitude produces the feeling of grandeur; 
great elevation, that of sublimity. "The emotions raised by great and 
by elevated objects, are clearly distinguishable, not only in the in- 
ternal feeling, but even in their external expressions. A great object 
dilates the breast, and makes the spectator endeavour to enlarge his 
bulk. . . . An elevated object produces a different expression: it 
makes the spectator stretch upward and stand a tiptoe." 39 In the first 
two editions of the Elements, Lord Kames produces experiments to 
show that grandeur and sublimity are distinct emotions from all 
others, and that they are in every case pleasant in themselves 5 and 
he argues that in proportion as an object is great, regularity is less 
required. The third and later editions, in which this argument is con- 
siderably revised, emphasize that mere bulk (though agreeable as 
such) does not constitute grandeur, but that some regularity, pro- 
portion, or other beautiful qualities are requisite to make the magni- 
tude grand. It is conceded, however, that grandeur requires less of 
these qualities than beauty 3 indeed, in its more impressive manifes- 
tations, grandeur (or sublimity) raises an enthusiasm impatient of 
confinement and the strictness of regularity and order. The terms 
"grandeur" and "sublimity" come to be used figuratively of other 
objects, physical, moral, and intellectual, which raise in us emotions 
similar to those of literal grandeur and sublimity. No quality is more 
grand, Kames mentions, than great force, especially when exerted 
by a sentient being $ but this grandeur derives from the association of 
impressions, and there is in Kames no tendency to interpret material 
sublimity as merely significant of force or other moral traits. In the 
figurative applications of "grandeur" and "sublimity," the distinc- 
tion between them is largely lost. 

It should be mentioned that Kames admits that the sublime may 
be attended with a humbling of the mind in some instances. He de- 
cides the controversy between Boileau and Huet over the Mosaic 

112 Beautiful and Sublim0 

"God said, Let there be light, and there was light," noting that 
Boileau has rightly perceived that the primary effect of this passage 
is an emotion of grandeur, but that Huet has seen more deeply that 
this emotion is but a flash and that the depressing effect is more sen- 
sible and lasting. It is "scarce possible," Kames remarks, "in fewer 
words, to convey so clear an image of the infinite power of the Deity: 
but then it belongs to the present subject to remark, that the emotion 
of sublimity raised by this image is but momentary ; and that the 
mind, unable to support itself in an elevation so much above nature, 
immediately sinks down into humility and veneration. . . ." 40 

Kames devises, in concluding his discussion of sublimity, some 
rules for achieving the sublime in art rules of a rather disappoint- 
ingly general character, as that capital circumstances should be gath- 
ered together and minute or low circumstances omitted, or that ab- 
stract and general terms should be avoided except where they com- 
prehend multitudes of individuals, and so forth. 

Kames appears to follow the list of topics marked out by Addison, 
for after beauty and greatness he addresses himself to novelty: "Of 
all the particulars that contribute to raise emotions, not excepting 
beauty, nor even greatness, novelty hath the most powerful influ- 
ence." 41 Kames argues that novelty, while agreeable in itself as grat- 
ifying curiosity, may at the same time have an opposite indirect ef- 
fect: it may aggravate terror if the new object appear dangerous. Now 
this is something like a theory of conversion of the passions: a pleas- 
ant emotion is transformed into a painful and more powerful feeling. 
But Kames does not generalize this phenomenon, and it remains an 
isolated curiosity in his system. Novelty, which gives rise to wonder, 
is distinguished from unexpectedness, which creates surprise. (Sur- 
prise, unlike wonder, has no definite character of its own, but accen- 
tuates, when moderate, any emotion which it accompanies a subject 
on which Kames is more than usually acute in pointing out efficient 
causes.) The differentiation of novelty from unexpectedness is an- 
other instance of a tendency pervading the system to dichotomize 
feelings or qualities often taken as simple. Thus grandeur was dis- 
tinguished from sublimity, and thus the risible is distinguished from 
the ridiculous, congruity from propriety, dignity from grace, custom 
from habit. In making each differentiation, Kames appeals to an in- 
ternal sense or senses, and the properties or relations treated are duly 
connected with the economy of the universe. This dichotomizing 
never yields dialectical distinctions of real and apparent, one and 
many, changeless and changing: it has, in fact, no systematic necessity 5 

Lord Kames 113 

there is simply an extraordinary proliferation of clear-cut literal dis- 
tinctions. This elaborateness of differentiation without systematic ne- 
cessity gives the Elements an eclectic air 5 but Lord Kames is not eclec- 
tic in the sense of explicitly adopting and interweaving the doctrines 
of his predecessors. On the contrary, he often regards himself as the 
first to investigate many of these phenomena, and although Kames 
must have been familiar with the books of Addison, Hutcheson, 
Hume, Hogarth, Burke, and Gerard, the aesthetic doctrines of these 
writers are nowhere canvassed in the Elements, Kames writes as if he 
owed no debts and anticipated no objections. 

The final chapter in the group treating of the aesthetic qualities of 
objects taken singly is devoted to the risible. Throughout the eight- 
eenth century, most aestheticians tended to ignore the ridiculous and 
risible and to confine themselves to the serious traits beauty, sub- 
limity, picturesqueness. Only those writers who deal largely with 
literature, in which the comic element plays a pronounced role, are 
led naturally to treat of the ludicrous j writers whose concern is with 
painting and sculpture, and still more those whose chief interest is in 
gardening, architecture, or external nature itself, tend equally natu- 
rally to ignore a quality of such slight importance in their subjects. 42 
The risible (I return to Lord Kames) provokes the emotion of 
laughter, and does so by exhibiting matters not important enough 
to engage serious feelings but in which there is some excess or defect 
not deviating so far from the norm as to become monstrous. In the 
ridiculous which, since it presupposes the senses of propriety and 
dignity, falls under the rubric of relations a mixture of the im- 
proper with the risible causes contempt to mingle with laughter. 
Kames enters upon a pretty elaborate account of ridicule and wit 5 
but the exposition of these matters, interesting and often subtle 
though it is, is not pertinent to the present enterprise. 

Among the relationships yielding agreeable emotions are the re- 
semblance and contrast, the variety and uniformity, already noticed 5 
these are "primary" relationships, having a real existence independent 
of the perceiving mind. But there are also "secondary" relationships 
dependent upon the peculiar structure of the mind and without ob- 
jective existence 5 such is the sense of congruity and propriety. 43 There 
are, as usual, two related properties 5 but one sense suffices for both, 
since propriety is nothing but the congruity of sensible beings with 
their thoughts, words, and actions. Kames's bent for elaborating lit- 
eral distinctions is nowhere more evident than in the denial that con- 
gruity is an element of beauty: "Congruity is so nearly allied to 

1 1 4 Beautiful and Sublime 

beauty, as commonly to be held a species of it; and yet they differ 
so essentially as never to coincide, beauty, like colour, is placed upon 
a single subject, congruity upon a plurality: further, a thing beauti- 
ful in itself, may, with relation to other things, produce the strong- 
est sense of incongruity." 44 Yet another internal sense is that which 
perceives dignity and meanness: "Man is endued with a sense of the 
worth and excellence of his nature: he deems it to be more perfect 
than that of the other beings around him; and he perceives that the 
perfection of his nature consists in virtue, particularly in virtue of 
the highest rank. To express this sense, the term digmty is appropri- 
ated." 45 The "rank" of virtues, incidentally, is not determined by 
utility but (consistently with Kames's system) by the direct impres- 
sion they make upon us; man being, in Kames's estimation, more an 
active than a contemplative being, the active virtues of generosity, 
magnanimity, heroism are the noblest. That elusive quality, grace, is 
treated in a few pages appended to the chapter on dignity in the 
third and later editions of the Elements; it is finally defined as "that 
agreeable appearance which arises from elegance of motion and from 
a countenance expressive of dignity." 46 

After a discussion of custom and habit, in which the various phe- 
nomena are drawn out at some length and brought under the proper 
causes, efficient and final, the argument begins to move gradually 
from these universals to the species and genres, the components and 
techniques, of art. The transition is made through a study first of the 
external signs of emotions and passions, then of sentiments, then of 
language dictated by passion. Thus far, the method is to move from 
causes (emotions and passions) to effects (gesture and expression, 
sentiment, language). The argument then begins constructively with 
a theory of language itself, upon the basis of this theory, together 
with the psychology of the emotions and the account of qualities and 
relations already canvassed, a theory of comparisons and figures is 
constructed; then a critique of the modes of writing (narration and 
description) is developed; and finally, theories of particular genres 
(tragedy and epic) are devised. 47 The practical bias of the Elements, 
the aim of forming taste and regulating creativity, becomes more ob- 
vious as the argument leaves the realm of universal traits and rela- 
tions: positive rules and the elaborate classification of faults enforce 
doubly the practical bearing of the complicated analysis. Kames fol- 
lows in each part of the discussion of language and literature a rather 
mechanical plan adapted to his practical purposes: a list of positive 
rules is set forth, based (usually explicitly) on aesthetic principles 

Lord Kames ijr 

and elaborately illustrated both in fulfillment and defect ; then 
faults are enumerated, proved to be such when error is obstinate, and 
illustrated at length. These latter portions of the system appear to me 
free from the faults of which I have complained hitherto. For, the 
apparatus of universals once established securely (however artifi- 
cially) with their original senses and final causes, Kames can analyze 
the complex particulars of art altogether in terms of that apparatus. 
His criticism as distinguished from his aesthetics has great par- 
ticularity and precision, and a very considerable degree of systematic 
consistency. (The reduction of critical principles to more general aes- 
thetic principles can often be discerned even in the minutiae of criti- 
cism 5 the distinction of inverted and natural style, for instance, hinges 
on the argument that substances can be conceived independent of any 
one attribute, whereas attributes can not be conceived independently 
accordingly, a style is inverted when the attribute precedes a circum- 
stance intervening between it and its subject, but is still natural if the 
subject precedes the intervening circumstance.) 

The external signs of passions and emotions are partly voluntary, 
partly involuntary 5 and the voluntary signs are either artificial 
(words) or natural (gestures and actions which express the passions, 
usually through resemblance to them). But external signs of what- 
ever kind produce other emotions and passions in spectators. Pleasant 
passions have agreeable signs which in turn produce pleasant pas- 
sions according to the usual rule 5 the feelings of the spectator, ac- 
cordingly, vary with those of the patient. Painful passions which are 
disagreeable have external signs which repel j painful passions agree- 
able in survey have signs disagreeable in themselves (and which raise, 
therefore, painful feelings in spectators), but which nevertheless, 
by a skilful contrivance of providence, attract. Distress pictured on 
the countenance, for instance, inspires the observer with pity, which, 
although painful in itself, nonetheless impels him to afford relief. 
Kames's explanation of this phenomenon of sympathy turns, quite 
characteristically, on an original principle and on a conception of fi- 
nality in nature, in contrast with Hume's account in terms of associa- 
tion of ideas and impressions j Kames, moreover, rests interpretation 
of the external signs of passions on intuition rather than experience. 
All this has clear implications for the arts, and especially for paint- 
ing, which depends so heavily upon gesture and expression. And the 
doctrine that agreeable painful emotions produce in spectators pain- 
ful but attracting emotions contains, to Kames's mind, the answer to 
the problem, why tragedy pleases: "The whole mystery is explained 

Il6 Beautiful and Sublime 

by a single observation, that sympathy, though painful, is attractive, 
and attaches us to an object in distress, the opposition of self-love 
notwithstanding, which should prompt us to fly from it. And by this 
curious mechanism it is, that persons of any degree of sensibility are 
attracted by affliction still more than by joy." 48 This view does not, 
however, account for any difference in the response to actual and 
simulated catastrophes. 

Besides the natural expression of feelings in gesture and facial as- 
pect, there is an artificial and arbitrary expression through language 3 
chapters on "Sentiments" ("Every thought prompted by passion 
merely, is termed a sentiment" 40 ) and on the "Language of Passion" 
accordingly conclude this division of the Elements. The ensuing 
treatment of language as such, as sound, signification, or imitation, 
contains what is perhaps the most subtle and extensive treatment of 
versification in the eighteenth century. In treating of these problems, 
and those of comparisons and figures, Kames is able to refer the mul- 
titudinous phenomena to the principles already established, so that 
his study is not only minutely detailed but also rational and ordered. 
The numerous "beauties" pointed out are not, of course, "beauty" in 
the strict sense: they are only excellencies appealing to our various 
senses and faculties. Beauty in the proper sense appears but rarely 5 a 
simile may involve a comparison with some object literally beautiful 
which the words call before the mind's eye, and such a simile, appro- 
priately employed to embellish or clarify the context, is beautiful not 
only in the more narrow sense but also in the sense of being meritori- 
ous as a simile. Similes and some other figures may also be grand by 
representing great or sublime objects, thoughts, or actions $ and oc- 
casionally the distinction of great from sublime may be noted in the 
subjects of a simile. 

The discussion of narration and description contains, beyond the 
rules and analysis of blemishes which we expect, a "curious inquiry": 
why the depiction or description of ugly objects may please. For many 
critics, one answer would serve for both this problem and that of 
tragic pleasure 5 but Lord Kames characteristically divides and dis- 
tinguishes. The case of tragedy is singular, involving as it does a 
painful emotion which is nonetheless agreeable. In imitation of the 
ugly, however, the pleasure of imitation itself (in painting) or of 
language (in poetry) overbalances the disagreeableness of the sub- 
ject. In tragedy, accordingly, the attraction is greater as the distress 
represented is greater $ but in description there is "no encouragement 

Lord, Kames 117 

to deal in disagreeable subjects, for the pleasure is incomparably 
greater where the subject and the description are both of them agree- 
able." 50 Disagreeable subjects ugly, disgusting, unmanly, horrible, 
or whatever subduct, then, from the pleasure of a performance. 
Terrific objects, however, constitute a kind of exception, for they 
"have in poetry and painting a fine effect. The picture, by raising a 
slight emotion of terror, agitates the mind; and in that condition 
every beauty makes a deep impression. May not contrast heighten 
the pleasure, by opposing our present security to the danger we would 
be in by encountering the object represented?" 51 This is clearly con- 
version of the passions j yet Kames does not employ this principle 
in accounting for the effects of tragedy, presumably because of the 
curious interpretation he gives of tragic fear (of which below). It 
must be remarked, too, that Kames does not connect the terrific with 
the sublime , it serves rather to heighten sensibility to "beauties" or 
excellencies of (presumably) whatever kind. 

The conventional literary kinds are at last arrived at through the 
constructive argument which has been described. Since these genres 
are not defined as objects of a certain kind (in the manner of Aris- 
totle), but rest all alike upon a general theory of the mind, they are 
not sharply differentiated. "Literary compositions," says Kames, "run 
into each other, precisely like colours: in their strong tints they are 
easily distinguished; but are susceptible of so much variety, and of 
so many different forms, that we can never say where one species 
ends and another begins." 52 The fine arts generally are distinguished 
from the useful arts by being calculated to make agreeable impres- 
sions; and this differentia of all the arts may be supplemented in 
the case of particular arts, genres, or varieties, by instruction. Of 
course even those works which have no didactic aim affect the char- 
acter, but this is rather a proprium than a differentia. The species of 
narrative poems are determined, accordingly, rather through the ends 
subserved by such compositions than through distinctions in con- 
struction as such. Aristotle's division of simple and complex plots is 
accordingly replaced: "A poem, whether dramatic or epic, that has no 
tendency beyond moving the passions and exhibiting pictures of vir- 
tue and vice, may be distinguished by the name of Apathetic. But where 
a story is purposely contrived to illustrate some moral truth, by 
showing the natural connection betwixt disorderly passions and ex- 
ternal misfortunes, such composition may be denominated moral" 63 
Both varieties of plot have a moral influence, for the pathetic plot 

Il8 Beautiful and Sublime 

through the sympathetic emotion of virtue cultivates feelings produc- 
tive of virtue, and through exercising the sympathies humanizes the 
mind; but the moral species "not only improves the heart ... but 
instructs the head by the moral it contains." 54 Moral tragedy raises 
alongside pity the self-regarding passion of fear fear not for the 
protagonist but for ourselves, lest we fall into similar errors. 55 Once 
the distinction of pathetic from moral is effected on these ethical 
grounds, so that criteria of suitable actions can be devised, action be- 
comes the principal part of the poem, and manners are adjusted to 
the fable, sentiments to manners, and diction to sentiment. 

It is not my aim to enter upon merely critical questions in any de- 
tail, but Kames's treatment of the three unities cannot be entirely 
passed over. His is the most philosophical treatment of this vexed 
topic in English criticism, both preceding and surpassing Johnson's 
analysis, which has rather undeservedly got credit for extraordinary 
courage and acuity. Unity of action finds support, when properly 
qualified, m the principles of Kamesian aesthetics, but the unities of 
time and place go by the board. Arguing from the conception of ideal 
presence, Kames urges preservation of these unities within continu- 
ous acts, and comparative freedom from these rules in intervals be- 
tween acts. 

But despite keen interest in critical issues in the arts and the deter- 
mination to establish rules, Lord Kames's concern remains rather 
more with the "elements" than with the "criticism." The arts enter- 
tain by raising agreeable feelings in the mind, and critical questions 
therefore always illustrate, and are always resolved by, principles of 
psychological aesthetics. Such reference might handicap the arts if 
the psychology were narrow; but Kames's aesthetics, however super- 
ficial at some points, is not dogmatically constricted, and the number 
and variety of principles which can be brought to bear upon the par- 
ticular phenomena of, say, tragedy or landscape gardening is ade- 
quate for explication of some of the most complex problems of art. 
Kames's aesthetics is not a mere ad hoc sanctification of modes of art 
currently fashionable. The freedom and originality of the system is 
striking (for instance) in the discussion of gardening (chapter xxiv), 
which is equally free from dogmatic attachment to the prevailing 
style of gardening and from insistence on some rigidly conceived 
set of reforms. Kames's conception of a garden is, that every part 
should exhibit beauty, but that each part should be characterized by 
some expression supervening to the beauty grandeur, melancholy, 

Lord Kames 119 

gaiety. These parts, seen successively (for a large garden is a temporal 
as well as a spatial art), give maximum pleasure by variety and con- 
trast; near the house, regularity should be studied, but at greater dis- 
tances a wilder and more various style is proper. Kames admired the 
gardens of Kent, but his theory calls for gardens far more varied 
and expressive than these it looks forward through the era of Capa- 
bility Brown to the gardens of the picturesque school. The theoretical 
treatment is far different from that given by Price and Knight rather 
more like that of Repton but the taste which it justifies is as broad. 
The prescriptions for architecture are, though in precision and com- 
prehensiveness less adequate to the subject, equally forward-looking. 
Uniformity, proportion, regularity, order, utility, expression, con- 
gruity, custom, and yet other principles are introduced into the dis- 
cussion, a discussion which, worked out more fully, would yield a 
system of architectural criticism as detailed, though not so system- 
atic, as that of Alison. 56 

Elements of Criticism culminates in a demonstration of the stand- 
ard of taste. It is a curiously perverse tendency among modern schol- 
ars to argue that the philosophical critics of the eighteenth century, 
by tracing aesthetic responses to their roots in passions, senses, facul- 
ties, and association, subvert the neo-classical system of rules and ab- 
solutes, and thus open the way for rampant subjectivism. McKenzie, 
who speaks of the "nearly incurable subjectivity" of the whole "mech- 
anist" tradition, 57 considers that Kames's escape from this welter of 
individualism was "simply to assume that standards exist as the result 
of many men's experiences and to expect the critic to acquaint him- 
self with them," a solution evolved at "very considerable cost to 
the validity of the method, since it is directly contradictory to an 
empirical approach" being, in fact, an insidious outgrowth of out- 
moded neo-classicism. 58 This interpretation appears to me to be inde- 
fensible. Setting aside the fiction of neo-classical rules, arbitrary, 
absolute, and objective, it is apparent that each philosophical aestheti- 
cian of the century subscribed to the idea of a standard of taste 
superior in authority to individual predilections j each supposed him- 
self to be placing the admitted standard on its just foundations. All 
found the standard connected in one way or another with human 
nature, a nature universal and in some sense fixed. The derivation of 
the standard from human nature could, and did, take many courses. 
With Lord Kames, the argument involves, consistently with the rest 
of his thought, postulation of an internal sense which discerns con- 

120 Beautiful and Sublime 

formity to our nature. Since all men speak of a right and wrong 
taste, there must be a foundation in nature for so universal a prac- 
tice j the foundation is, that 

we have a sense or conviction of a common nature, not only in our own 
species, but in every species of animals. . . . This common nature is 
conceived to be a model or standard for each individual that belongs to 
the kind. . . . 

With respect to the common nature of man, in particular, we have 
a conviction that it is invariable not less than universal; that it will be the 
same hereafter as at present, and as it was in time past; the same among 
all nations and in all corners of the earth. . . . 

We are so constituted as to conceive this common nature, not only 
to be invariable, but to be also perfect or right; and consequently that 
individuals ought to be made conformable to it. Every remarkable de- 
viation from the standard, makes accordingly an impression on us of im- 
perfection, irregularity, or disorder: it is disagreeable, and raises in us 
a painful emotion. . . , 59 

Even those whose taste is perverted, still are conscious of the com- 
mon nature of man and grant that it ought not to be subjected to 
their peculiar taste. All this by no means denies that men's tastes in 
art and morals is actually highly variable: how is the true taste to 
be ascertained? It is fixed by appealing to the most general and 
lasting preferences among polite nations where rationality and deli- 
cacy have been cultivated. The good judge has natural delicacy of 
taste, improved by education, reflection, and experience, and preserved 
by regular and moderate living. But the standard need not be deter- 
mined by an intricate and uncertain process of selecting good judges 5 
for Kames as for Gerard, it is to be arrived at deductively from 
the psychological principles governing the sensitive part of our nature. 
"In a word, there is no means so effectual for ascertaining the stand- 
ard of taste, as a thorough acquaintance with these principles j and 
to lay a foundation for this valuable branch of knowledge, is the 
declared purpose of the present undertaking." 60 This demonstration 
of the standard of taste appropriately concludes the Elements of 
Criticism, for, while all the foregoing analysis serves to establish the 
particular principles of taste, the proof of the perfection and uni- 
versality of the standard reflexively ascertains the principles already 
brought to light. 

A few words should yet be said on the connection of aesthetics 
and morals in this system: judgment arises in each case from internal 
senses 5 these senses are in each case devised for beneficent purposes 5 

Lord Kames 121 

aesthetic feelings may have moral consequences, and moral feelings 
may be taken as the matter of art; the theoretician may pursue 
parallel inquiries in the two sciences. Some of the aesthetic senses, 
moreover, are essentially and exclusively moral in character ; pro- 
priety, dignity, the agreeableness of passions all depend on our sense 
of our specific nature; and even those aesthetic senses which address 
themselves to physical properties and relations may apply also by 
extension and analogy to the moral world. But the "order" of the 
physical world is not really identical with that of the moral world; 
and "beauty," which in its proper signification designates a secondary 
property of visible objects, is extended to mental properties only 
through the resemblance of the effects on the percipient; the same 
association accounts for the figurative "grandeur" and "sublimity" 
of the moral and intellectual realm. Moral standards, moreover, are 
more definitely fixed with the progress of civilization than are 
aesthetic; for, the objects of moral feeling being more clearly dis- 
tinguishable from one another, moral feelings are stronger and more 
definite. And this difference exhibits contrivance once more: were 
aesthetic feelings stronger, they would abstract attention from mat- 
ters of greater moment; were they less vague, there would be no 
differences in feeling, and in consequence no rivalry and improve- 
ment in the arts. 61 And so, despite the manifold connections and 
analogies between ethics and aesthetics, aesthetics remains a separate 
science with at least partly independent principles and criteria. 


Hugh ^Blair 

A^ONG the various activities of Henry Home, Lord Kames, 
in behalf of the intellectual and literary life of Scotland, was 
the establishment in 1748 of a series of public lectures on language 
and literature. Adam Smith delivered the first lectures at the Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh ; in 1759 the post was vacant, and the appoint- 
ment fell to Hugh Blair, litterateur and distinguished preacher and 
minister of the High Church of St. Giles. 1 

Blair's lectures, after 1760 given only to students of the Uni- 
versity (where Blair became Professor of Rhetoric in 1760 and 
Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres in 1762), remained 
unchanged in essentials for the quarter-century of Blair's professor- 
ship. Though Blair spoke of "adding to and improving" his lectures, 2 
there is no reason to question Schmitz's judgment that "a student 
who sat before Blair in 1760 heard very much the same lectures as 
were delivered in the class of 1783, the year of Blair's retirement 
and publication of the lectures." 3 That Blair "kept up with" the 
aesthetic discussion of the age is evidenced by a footnote discussion 
in the printed Lectures of the Appendix on the Imitative Nature of 
Poetry added to the third edition of Gerard's Essay on Taste as 
recently as i78o. 4 

The Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, together with A 
Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, con- 
stitute Blair's contribution to aesthetic, rhetorical, and critical theory. 5 
Though he was neither a comprehensive nor a profoundly original 
writer, Blair was of immense importance as a^popularizer ofaesthgtic. 
and_cntical speculation; there are more than sixty ecEHons oTthe 
Lectures in English, almost fifty editions of abridgments, and trans- 
lations into German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. 6 Blair's 
rhetorical theory is still studied, but the almost entire absence of 


Hugh Blair 123 

comment on his theory of the sublime and beautiful testifies to the 
disregard into which his aesthetics has fallen. 

The introductory lecture of Blair's course is a recitation of truisms 
designed to enforce the importance of the study of writing and the 
advantages of the pursuits of taste. There is no striving for paradox 
or novelty as Blair reiterates a sentiment which echoes down the 
century: "PROVIDENCE seems plainly to have pointed out this useful 
purpose to which the pleasures of taste may be applied, by inter- 
posing them in a middle station between the pleasures of sense, and 
those of pure intellect. . . . The pleasures of taste refresh the mind 
after the toils of the intellect, and the labours of abstract study 5 and 
they gradually raise it above the attachments of sense, and prepare 
it for the enjoyments of virtue." 7 Yet there is often real novelty 
concealed beneath the platitudinous manner so characteristic of Blair. 
His rhetoric is a systematic return from the trope-and-figure tradition 
to the Ciceronian emphasis on argumentative content: "If the fol- 
lowing Lectures have any merit, it will consist in an endeavour to 
substitute the application of these principles [reason and good sense] 
in the place of artificial and scholastic rhetoric 5 in an endeavour to 
explode false ornament, to direct attention more towards substance 
than show, to recommend good sense as the foundation of all good 
composition, and simplicity as essential to all true ornament." 8 Such 
generalities are, to be sure, commonplaces $ but Blair's lectures carry 
out the program in earnest. 

Rhetoric, however, falls outside the scope of this study, which is 
confined to the first group of the lectures as Blair outlines them: 
"They divide themselves into five parts. First, some introductory 
dissertations on the Nature of Taste, and upon the sources of its 
pleasures. Secondly, the consideration of Language: Thirdly, of Style: 
Fourthly, of Eloquence properly so called, or Public Speaking in its 
different kinds. Lastly, a critical examination of the most distin- 
guished Species of Composition, both in prose and verse." 9 The four 
last groups are arranged in an evident synthetic pattern: language 
merely, then language given a character expressive of a writer's man- 
ner of thinking and peculiarity of temper, and finally the two branches 
of composition rhetoric and belles-lettres in which style is applied 
to subject under the influence of heart and imagination. The connec- 
tion of the opening dissertations on taste is less evident, and indeed, 
the essays of this part constitute a subsidiary unity within the lectures, 
intelligible apart from what follows, and not indispensably prerequi- 
site to it. 

124 Beautiful and Subhme 

Since, however, taste is the faculty appealed to in disquisitions on 
the merit of composition, Blair may treat of it as a preliminary. He 
defines the faculty as "the power of receiving pleasure from the 
beauties of nature and of art"; 10 and finds this power to be "ulti- 
mately founded on a certain natural and instinctive sensibility to 
beauty," though reason "assists Taste in many of its operations, and 
serves to enlarge its power." n This formulation, so independent of 
any particular philosophic context supported, indeed, by a footnote 
reference to Gerard, D'Alembert, Du Bos, Kames, Hume, and 
Burke is a mark of Blair's eclecticism ; his aesthetic doctrine is less 
a system than a conspectus of eighteenth-century opinion. 

Determination of the constituent faculties of taste gives the material 
cause j and consideration of the culture and improvement of these 
natural powers yields the formal cause a good taste. Here, too, the 
doctrine is conventional, and in distinctions and terminology appears 
to be based very largely on Gerard. The psychology underlying these 
distinctions is in Blair, however, very much abbreviated. Discussion 
of "correctness" leads to the problem of the standard: are we to hold, 
"according to the proverb, [that] there is no disputing of Tastes, but 
that whatever pleases is right, for that reason that it does please?" 12 
Blair observes (as Hume and others had done before him) that no 
one really accepts the proverb in its full extent, and (further) that 
though Truth is one, Beauty is manifold, and there is a legitimate lat- 
itude and diversity of objects of taste. Such diversity, however, "can 
only have place where the objects of Taste are different" that is, 
where different aspects of the object are isolated for commendation 
or reprehension. But direct contradiction of preference does also 
occur, and here a standard is requisite. Human nature, of course, pro- 
vides it: "were there any one person who possessed in full perfection 
all the powers of human nature, whose internal senses were in every 
instance exquisite and just, and whose reason was unerring and sure, 
the determinations of such a person concerning beauty, would, be- 
yond doubt, be a perfect standard for the Taste of all others." 13 Since 
such an ideal critic does not exist, the problem is to construct his judg- 
ments hypothetical^. "That which men concur the most in admiring, 
must be held to be beautiful. His Taste must be esteemed just and 
true, which coincides with the general sentiments of men. In this 
standard we must rest. To the sense of mankind the ultimate appeal 
must ever lie, in all works of Taste." 14 But the eighteenth-century 
critics, men as various as Gerard and Kames, Hume and Johnson, 

Hugh Blair 125 

were wont to demonstrate the inadequacy of the argument from al- 
leged universal consensus, and Blair is not an exception: 

But have we then, it will be said, no other cntenon of what is beau- 
tiful, than the approbation of the majority? ... By no means; there 
are principles of reason and sound judgment which can be applied to 
matters of Taste as well as to the subjects of science and philosophy. He 
who admires or censures any work of genius, is always ready, if his 
Taste be in any degree improved, to assign some reasons of his decision. 
He appeals to principles, and points out the grounds on which he pro- 
ceeds. Taste is a sort of compound power, in which the light of the 
understanding always mingles, more or less, with the feelings of senti- 

ment. 15 

Reasonings on taste always appeal ultimately to feeling as criterion, 
of course but to the feelings men have about the general properties 
which make up objects rather than to the superficial feelings evoked 
by complex objects themselves, unanalyzed by reason. 

Blair is not so sensible as Gerard of the difficulties of establishing 
a consensus, or so aware of the existence of cultures which do not, 
even ultimately, coincide with Western culture in preferences 3 and 
he suggests that the rules of art can be determined inductively from 
works which have in fact commanded general approbation. His con- 
ception of philosophical method in aesthetics is oversimple, and de- 
pends too heavily upon ascending from particular instances to gen- 
eral principles. I have already argued, in treating of Gerard's method, 
that mere ascending induction from the empirical data is question- 
able when applied to problems where the contributing causes are so 
many and so subtle as in aesthetics. Following Mill and one of Ger- 
ard's own pronouncements, I argued for the inverse deductive 
method: obtaining provisional empirical laws by direct induction and 
afterwards connecting these with established principles of human 
nature by deduction consilience constituting verification. Although 
Blair, like Gerard, does call for ultimate deductive verification, the 
a priori part of the process is too abbreviated. 

For his principles, Blair turns back to Addison, declaring that "the 
advances made since his time in this curious part of philosophical 
Criticism, are not very considerable j though some ingenious writers 
have pursued the subject." 16 This inadequacy is explained by re- 
marking that "it is difficult to make a full enumeration of the several 
objects that give pleasure to Taste ; it is more difficult to define all 
those which have been discovered, and to reduce them under proper 

126 Beautiful and Sublime 

classes ; and, when we would go farther, and investigate the efficient 
causes of the pleasure which we receive from such objects, here, above 
all, we find ourselves at a loss. . . . These first principles of internal 
sensation, nature seems to have covered with an impenetrable veil." 17 
Like Addison, Blair takes refuge in final causes, which are, as he says, 
more readily ascertained. This is not an auspicious beginning- in 
aesthetics, as in biology, only the investigator who disregards fi- 
nality can have the enthusiasm for efficient causes requisite to dis- 

Sublimity, as a topic traditional for rhetoricians, and as the narrow- 
est and most precisely definable of the pleasures of imagination, is 
the first quality of which Blair treats. He declines to distinguish 
(with Kames) grandeur from sublimity, unless "sublimity" be merely 
"Grandeur in its highest degree." Sublimity produces "a sort of in- 
ternal elevation and expansion 5 it raises the mind much above its or- 
dinary state ; and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment, 
which it cannot well express. The emotion is certainly delightful 3 but 
it is altogether of the serious kind: a degree of awfulness and solem- 
nity, even approaching to severity, commonly attends it when at its 
height 5 very distinguishable from the more gay and brisk emotion 
raised by beautiful objects." 18 Simplest of the qualities of objects 
productive of this emotion is vastness, unboundedness of space or 
time or number. Blair makes the conventional observation that the 
effect of height is more intense than that of length but less so than 
that of depth; yet no effort is made to account for these differences. 
Sublimity is found also in loud sounds, the burst of thunder or the 
shouting of multitudes. Great power and force are the most copious 
source of sublime ideas ; and "all ideas of the solemn and awful kind, 
and even bordering on the terrible, tend greatly to assist the Sub- 
lime; such as darkness, solitude, and silence." 19 Blair follows Burke 
in finding obscurity sublime: "In general, all objects that are greatly 
raised above us, or far removed from us either in space or in time, 
are apt to strike us as great. Our viewing them, as through the mist 
of distance or antiquity, is favourable to the impressions of their Sub- 
limity." 20 The moral and sentimental sublime, finally, produces "an 
effect extremely similar to what is produced by the view of grand 
objects in nature; filling the mind with admiration, and elevating it 
above itself." 21 This mental sublimity "coincides in a great measure 
with magnanimity, heroism, and generosity of sentiment. Whatever 
discovers human nature in its greatest elevation; whatever bespeaks 
a high effort of soul; or shews a mind superior to pleasures, to dan- 

Hugh Blair 127 

gers, and to death 5 forms what may be called the moral or sentimen- 
tal sublime." 22 

Blair's procedure thus far has been to describe the emotion of sub- 
limity, and to collect the chief qualities which produce it. Two steps 
of an adequate account remain: to find the common traits (if any) 
in virtue of which the various qualities produce similar effects, and to 
discover, preferably by deduction from established principles of hu- 
man nature, the intervening steps of the mechanism. "A question 
next arises," as Blair puts it, "whether we are able to discover some 
one fundamental quality in which all these different objects [produc- 
tive of sublimity] agree, and which is the cause of their producing an 
emotion of the same nature in our minds? Various hypotheses have 
been formed concerning this 5 but, as far as appears to me, hitherto 
unsatisfactory." 23 Blair's account of the theories of his predecessors 
is scarcely just. "Some," he tells us in patent allusion to Gerard, 
"have imagined that amplitude, or great extent, joined with simplic- 
ity, is either immediately, or remotely, the fundamental quality of 
whatever is sublime 5 but we have seen that amplitude is confined to 
one species of Sublime Objects 5 and cannot, without violent strain- 
ing, be applied to them all." 24 This is not an adequate statement of 
Gerard's position, for Gerard has a pretty complicated set of devices 
(several species of relations and associations) through which the 
manifold phenomena of sublimity can be connected with the simplest 
and most evident of them, quantity. These devices do perhaps neces- 
sitate some subtle analysis, but might be defended against the charge 
of "violent straining." Burke is described as proposing the theory, 
"That terror is the source of the Sublime, and that no objects have 
this character, but such as produce impressions of pain and danger. It 
is indeed true, that many terrible objects are highly sublime 5 and that 
grandeur does not refuse an alliance with the idea of danger . . . 
yet he seems to stretch his theory too far, when he represents the Sub- 
lime as consisting wholly in modes of danger, or of pain." 25 Burke 
does not say quite this, however: only that sublime objects are ca- 
pable of exciting terror, or are associated with terror, or act upon our 
"nerves" in a fashion analogous to terror. And in any event, Burke 
does not maintain that danger and pain constitute sublimity, but that 
the remission of them does. Blair's point that "the proper sensation 
of sublimity appears to be very distinguishable from the sensation of 
[danger and pain] ; and, on several occasions, to be entirely separated 
from them," 26 is, then, an ignoratio elenchi,, and one of which a host 
of critics of Burke are guilty. 

128 Beautiful and Sublime 

Blair's own conjecture, presented without much effort at substanti- 
ation, is that 

mighty force or power, whether accompanied with terror or not, whether 
employed in protecting, or in alarming us, has a better title, than any 
thing that has yet been mentioned, to be the fundamental quality of the 
Sublime; as, after the review which we have taken, there does not occur 
to me any Sublime Object, into the idea of which, power, strength, and 
force, either enter not directly, or are not, at least, intimately associated 
with the idea, by leading our thoughts to some astonishing power, as con- 
cerned in the production of the object. 27 

This conjecture is very closely related to the doctrine later advanced 
by Payne Knight, that the sublime turns on energy. 

Blair's principal concern in the lectures is, of course, the literary 
arts, and he treats of the sublime in "objects" only so far as this in- 
vestigation is ancillary to a consideration of sublimity in discourse ; 
his concern is in this respect more like that of Longinus than like 
that of Gerard and Burke. Ruling out at once the conception of sub- 
limity in writing which Jonathan Richardson and a variety of others 
had given "any remarkable and distinguishing excellency of com- 
position" Blair does not hesitate to censure Longinus himself, for 
"many of the passages which he produces as instances of the Sublime, 
are merely elegant, without having the most distant relation to proper 
Sublimity 5 witness Sappho's famous Ode, on which he descants at 
considerable length." 28 And Longinus' very plan is defective, for the 
three heads dealing with language (figures, diction, composition) 
"have no more relation to the Sublime, than to other kinds of good 
Writing; perhaps less to the Sublime than to any other species what- 
ever 5 because it requires less the assistance of ornament." 29 The sub- 
lime pertains to nature, not artifice, and the true conception of "Sub- 
lime Writing" is, "such a description of objects, or exhibition of sen- 
timents, which are in themselves of a Sublime nature, as shall give 
us strong impressions of them." 80 Since Blair defines the sublime of 
discourse in terms of the natural sublime, he can put off to a kind of 
appendix at the end of his chapter treatment of the two opposites to 
the sublime, frigidity and bombast. For Longinus, however, operat- 
ing in purely literary terms, the discussion of these faults must come 
first, because it is through this analysis that he defines the sublime. 

The foundation of sublimity in writing, then, is in the nature of 
the object described. "Unless it be such an object as, if presented to 
our eyes, if exhibited to us in reality, would raise ideas of that ele- 

Hugh Blair 129 

vating, that awful, and magnificent kind, which we call Sublime 5 the 
description, however finely drawn, is not entitled to come under this 
class." 31 The description of such an object must be simple, concise, 
and made up of stnbng circumstances, rules which find their ration- 
ale in the nature of the sublime emotion: "The mind rises and 
swells, when a lofty description or sentiment is presented to it, in its 
native form. But no sooner does the poet attempt to spread out this 
sentiment or description, and to deck it round and round with glit- 
tering ornaments, than the mind begins to fall from its high eleva- 
tion ; the transport is over; the beautiful may remain, but the sub- 
lime is gone." 32 In all good writing, the sublime lies in the thoughts, 
which, when truly noble, clothe themselves in a native dignity of 
language. Its sources "are to be looked for every where in nature," 
and no art can isolate them. The sublime "must come unsought, if 
it come at all 3 and be the natural offspring of a strong imagina- 
tion." 33 

Often in the course of the Dissertation on Ossian, Blair speaks of 
"the sublime and pathetic," a coupling which requires comment. Blair 
uses "pathetic" in such contexts to refer not to passion generally 
though this ts often the meaning in other contexts but to tender and 
melting emotion opposite to the astonishment and elevation of the 
sublime, though like it serious and intense. The two great character- 
istics of Ossian's poetry are tenderness and sublimity 5 he "moves 
perpetually in the high region of the grand and the pathetic." 34 In 
this commingling of strains, indeed, Ossian is the superior of Homer, 
for "the sublimity of moral sentiments, if they wanted the softening 
of the tender, would be in hazard of giving a hard and stiff air to 
poetry. It is not enough to admire. Admiration is a cold feeling, in 
comparison of that deep interest which the heart takes in tender and 
pathetic scenes 5 where, by a mysterious attachment to the objects of 
compassion, we are pleased and delighted, even whilst we mourn." 35 

Blair's view accords with the fashionable primitivism of his age 
when he opines that "the early ages of the world, and the rude unim- 
proved state of society, are peculiarly favorable to the strong emo- 
tions of Sublimity," 3<J to glowing imagination, violent passions, bold 
expression. The ancient poems of nations disclose to us the history 
of human imagination and feeling "before those refinements of soci- 
ety had taken place, which enlarge indeed, and diversify the trans- 
actions, but disguise the manners of mankind." Such poetry offers 
some of the highest beauties of poetical writing: "Irregular and un- 
polished we may expect the productions of uncultivated ages to be$ 

Beautiful and Sublime 

but abounding, at the same time, with that enthusiasm, that vehe- 
mence and fire, which are the soul of poetry. . . . That state, in 
which human nature shoots wild and free, though unfit for other im- 
provements, certainly encourages the high exertions of fancy and 
passion." 37 The passages of sublime and pathetic which Blair brings 
forward are most often drawn from such works from Scripture, 
from Homer, Ossian, and Milton (whose subject and character alike 
withdrew him, I presume, from the insipid elegance of artificial so- 

Beauty is distinguished from sublimity by its more gay and brisk 
emotion, an emotion felt to be calmer, more soothing, less elevating 
but more serene, and susceptible of longer continuance. As this list 
of traits already suggests, with its emotion both gay and soothing, 
brisk and serene, "the feelings which Beautiful objects produce, differ 
considerably, not in degree only, but also in kind, from one an- 
other." The term "beauty," accordingly, is equivocal, being "applied 
to almost every external object that pleases the eye, or the ear; to a 
great number of the graces of writing 5 to many dispositions of the 
mind 5 nay, to several objects of mere abstract science." 38 Blair infers 
very plausibly that there is no one common trait among beautiful 
objects, and that beautiful things please by means of various prin- 
ciples of human nature j the "agreeable emotion which they all raise, 
is somewhat of the same nature j and, therefore, has the common name 
of Beauty given to it 5 but it is raised by different causes." 39 Blair's 
hypothesis that power is the root trait of all sublimity is grounded 
on association of ideas ; his hypothesis concerning beauty turns on 
association of like impressions. 

The simplest beauty is that of color, and the efficient cause which 
Blair postulates is the structure of the eye, though he grants without 
emphasis that association of ideas has influence. Beauty of figure is 
of several sorts: regularity, Blair suggests, is beautiful chiefly "on ac- 
count of its suggesting the ideas of fitness, propriety, and use." 40 
Variety is a more powerful principle, and Hogarth is vouchsafed 
some condescending approval j "he pitches upon two lines," Blair re- 
marks, "on which, according to him, the Beauty of figure principally 
depends 3 and he has illustrated, and supported his doctrine, by a 
surprising number of instances." 41 The tone is a little supercilious j 
Blair doubtless considers Hogarth an enthusiast who has taken a 
part for the whole. Hutcheson's combination of unity amid variety 
will not serve, however not even for the beauty of external figured 
objects, for many beautiful objects have slight variety while others 

Hugh Blair 131 

are intricate. The beauty of motion gentle, undulating, and ascend- 
ingcompletes the roster of merely physical beauties. Each of these 
properties yields a distinct feeling, yet sufficiently similar "as readily 
to mix and blend in one general perception of Beauty, which we 
ascribe to the whole object as its cause: for Beauty is always conceived 
by us, as something residing in the object which raises the pleasant 
sensation j a sort of glory which dwells upon, and invests it." 42 "Per- 
haps the most complete assemblage of beautiful objects that can any 
where be found," Blair illustrates, "is presented by a rich natural 
landscape, where there is a sufficient variety of objects: fields in 
verdure, scattered trees and flowers, running water, and animals 
grazing. If to these be joined, some of the productions of art, which 
suit such a scene ; as a bridge with arches over a river, smoke rising 
from cottages in the midst of trees, and the distant view of a fine 
building seen by the rising sun; we then enjoy, in the highest per- 
fection, that gay, cheerful, and placid sensation which characterises 
Beauty." 43 But such an assemblage of beautiful objects really lays 
bare the inadequacy of the elementary principles of beauty which 
Blair has brought forward, and the almost total lack of middle prin- 
ciples connecting these with concrete phenomena. 

In treating of the beauty of the countenance, Blair is led to moral 
and sentimental beauty, those "social virtues, and such as are of a 
softer and gentler kind ; as compassion, mildness, friendship, and 
generosity." 44 There is, finally, an intellectual beauty of design and 
art. But Blair makes no effort to see associations with these beauties 
in external objects. The beauty of discourse is less a problem than 
the sublime, for it is less a definite and isolable quality. Beyond the 
unmeaning use of "beauty" to mean merely "good," is its employment 
to designate a certain manner, "such as raises in the reader an emotion 
of the gentle placid kind, similar to what is raised by the contempla- 
tion of beautiful objects in nature j which neither lifts the mind very 
high, nor agitates it very much, but diffuses over the imagination an 
agreeable and pleasing serenity," 45 a style like that of Virgil, or 
Fenelon, or Addison. 

Imitation yields a pleasure of taste, though a pleasure distinguished 
by Blair from that of beauty. Although poetry and eloquence have 
greater capacity of affecting us by their representations than other 
arts, they are not (in general) strictly imitative. In a truly mimetic 
art, "imitation is performed by means of somewhat that has a natural 
likeness and resemblance to the thing imitated, and of consequence 
is understood by all," whereas "the raising in the mind the conception 

132 Beautiful and Sublime 

of an object by means of some arbitrary or instituted symbols" is more 
properly termed "description." 46 Given these definitions, it is clear 
that only dramatic poetry is strictly imitative j a footnote to the pub- 
lished lectures concedes, however, the justice of Gerard's argument 
for the imitative nature of poetry (in the Appendix to the third edi- 
tion of the Essay on Taste}. 

Other pleasures of taste Blair does not analyze. The single para- 
graph accorded to novelty testifies to the demotion of that relation 
to the status of an incidental effect. Melody and harmony, wit, hu- 
mor, and ridicule, Blair omits ; for the first do not bear upon rhetoric 
and belles-lettres, and the last require (it appears) no explanation 
previous to treatment of the literary forms in which they are em- 


Sir Joshua Reynolds 

t I AHE Fifteen Discourses of Art 1 of Sir Joshua Reynolds are 
JL more a system of criticism for painting than a philosophical in- 
quiry into the universal traits of aesthetic experience: and this is quite 
natural, for the discourses were delivered by an artist to an audience 
of artists and connoisseurs with the practical aim of directing the 
practice of painters and forming the taste of amateurs. Nevertheless, 
Reynolds repeatedly enters upon the higher and more philosophical 
issues, and, indeed, the very method and viewpoint he adopts tend 
to do away with any sharp distinction of aesthetics from criticism: his 
dialectic plays constantly between the most general issues of psychol- 
ogy and the most particular questions of technique. As is usually the 
case in such dialectics, it is not possible to separate for analysis one 
element or part of the system without prejudicing the intelligibility 
of the whole, and accordingly, the entire system will be reviewed 
here, without attempt to single out for analysis Reynolds' views on 
beauty or sublimity. 

Reynolds alone among the philosophical critics and aestheticians 
of the eighteenth century is generally read today. This circumstance 
is attributable partly to his stature as a practicing artist, which has 
transferred an adventitious authority to his critical doctrines. But in 
part also, Reynolds' still flourishing reputation as a critic is due to 
the peculiar character of his thought, which, standing in some meas- 
ure apart from the general current of eighteenth-century empiricism, 
has better escaped the dogmatic reaction of the nineteenth century. 

Yet although Reynolds is widely read and respected today, the co- 
herency of his doctrine and the purity of his method are usually dis- 
regarded ; both his critics and his defenders interpret his thought in 
the light of modern preconceptions, philosophical, critical, or histor- 
ical. It is a matter of importance to this study, as well as of consider- 


134 Beautiful and Sublime 

able autonomous interest, to re-establish the aesthetics of Reynolds 
as a system self-consistent, systematic, and fruitful. 5 

Modern criticism of the theory of Reynolds has concerned itself 
chiefly with two issues, though neither has been stated in such wise 
as to admit of a solution. There is, in the first place, a sense of baffling 
contradictions in the thought of Reynolds, a feeling which has per- 
sisted since the attacks of Blake and Hazlitt. Roger Fry observes, in 
his admirable edition of Reynolds' Discourses, that it is not possible 
to acquit Reynolds "of confusion of thought and inconsistency in the 
use of words," and he instances (among other inconsistencies) the ap- 
parently incompatible senses of the central term "nature," used (r) 
to designate visible phenomena not made by artifice, (2) "in an Aris- 
totelian sense as an immanent force working in the refractory medium 
of matter towards the highest perfection of form," and (3) to signify 
what is inherently agreeable to the mind. 3 Michael Macklem has 
more recently attempted to show "how the diversity of meanings at- 
tached to the idea of nature indicates the diverse principles of neo- 
classical art," finding that Reynolds concurrently and inconsistently 
thought of art as producing a general image of nature, as represent- 
ing an Ideal transcending nature but from which nature is derived, 
and as affording a wish-fulfilling idealization of the actual. 4 Thomp- 
son, too, asserts that "inconsistencies in Reynolds's statements can 
easily be detected j for the first paper in the Idler appeared in 1759, 
and the last address was delivered in 1790. Moreover, the artist did 
not always practice what he preached." 5 The correlation of theory 
and practice (a matter often brought to the fore in discussions of 
Reynolds) is not germane to the present analysis $ but I may observe 
that Reynolds' theory involves a hierarchy of genres and styles, and 
that the "rules" are analogically applicable to each, so that every genre 
and style has its appropriate excellence (however low in the total 
scheme) and artists may exercise their talents legitimately at every 
level. Accordingly, the criteria on which Reynolds based his choice 
of "fields" were more personal and social than philosophical; his 
talents lay in the direction of portraiture and coloring, coinciding 
happily with the demand of his age for portraits executed with fash- 
ionable splendor of style. In recommending to artists to follow the 
path which Michael Angelo had marked out, Reynolds says: "I have 
taken another course, one more suited to my abilities, and to the 
taste of the times in which I live. Yet however unequal I feel myself 
to that attempt, were I now to begin the world again, I would tread 
in the steps of that great master. . . ." 6 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 135 

Joseph Burke specifies more of the contradictions which the Dis- 
courses display: 

In the first Discourse Reynolds recommends an implicit obedience to the 
rules of art, and adds that the models provided by the great Masters 
should be considered as perfect and infallible guides. In the third Dis- 
course he states that there are no precise invariable rules, nor are taste 
and genius to be acquired by rules, and in the fourteenth, that the mo- 
ment the artist turns other artists into models he falls infinitely below 
them. In the sixth Discourse, he says that by imitation only, are variety 
and originality of invention' produced. On the other hand, he had al- 
ready stated, in the third Discourse, that the perfection of art did not 
consist in 'mere imitation. 3 7 

Those writers who do not emphasize outright contradictions in 
Reynolds' theory usually escape this conclusion only by discovering 
a progressive development of his thought, Clough, for instance, 
traces three stages in this development j the Idler papers constitute 
the first, and two of the Discourses, "the seventh and the thirteenth, 
might almost be taken to stand for the whole number, epitomizing 
as they do his middle and last periods" 5 the early discourses exhibit 
Reynolds' "adherence to the standard neo-classical code," but by the 
time of the thirteenth, "Reynolds makes a tentative advance toward 
the more popular aesthetic of his time, by referring art to human 
nature." 8 These hypotheses of self-contradiction and chronological 
development are obviously devised to account for the reiterated para- 
doxes which are so prominent a feature of the discourses. In some 
cases the detection of inconsistencies depends on overlooking or con- 
founding the several stages which Reynolds prescribes for the edu- 
cation of artists. More often such obvious misreading is not involved j 
rather, the inconsistencies are found by juxtaposing passages without 
regard to the "level" of their argumentative contexts. The reconcili- 
ation of the paradoxes is readily accomplished if allowance is made 
for the methodological devices which Reynolds consistently employs. 

The second persistent theme in recent discussion of Reynolds is 
his Platomsm or Aristotelianism. Fry argues that "it was probably 
from a passage in Bellori . . . that Reynolds actually derived his 
main ideas," and that the ultimate source of such Renaissance art 
theories was Aristotle. 9 Bredvold urges that although "the analysis 
and formulation of Neo-classical principles for each specific art was 
generally a form of Aristotelianism," the conception of Ideal Beauty 
underlying all the arts "is nevertheless a conception which leads be- 
yond Aristotle, and which Reynolds . . . definitely thought of as 

136 Beautiful and Sublime 

Platonic rather than Aristotelian." 10 Macklem, too, finds both an 
Aristotelian and a Platonic strain in the Discourses, the first in the 
conception of specific forms, the second in the Ideal transcending nat- 
ural experience. 11 In opposition to the consensus, however, Trow- 
bridge argues that Reynolds "shows a tendency away from Platon- 
ism much more prominently than any attraction to it," that "the true 
philosophical affinity of Reynolds 5 classicism is not Plato but John 
Locke," and that Reynolds adapted the traditional Platonic theory 
of painting to be consistent with an empirical metaphysics and psy- 
chology. 12 Though denying the Platonism of Reynolds in regard to 
his philosophic principles, Trowbridge points out that in method Rey- 
nolds might justly be dubbed a Platomst. This problem of Reynolds' 
Platonism, then, like that of his doctrinal consistency, depends for 
adequate statement and for solution upon study of the method of 
the Discourses, and upon distinguishing problems of method from 
those of philosophic principle. 13 

The primary and ubiquitous principle of Reynolds' aesthetic sys- 
tem is the contrariety of universal and particular. Whether the dis- 
course is of nature or of art, of invention or imitation, of subject or 
style, of taste or genius, the analysis proceeds in a dialectic of the one 
and the many, the changeless and the transient. The distinction of 
general and particular is the constant analytic device, and universality 
the invariable criterion of excellence. It is natural, therefore, to see 
Reynolds as the intellectual descendant of Plato j 14 yet the dialectic 
of the eighteenth-century critic differs sharply from that of the Gre- 
cian philosopher. Plato's system did not encourage the demarcation 
of an aesthetic realm which could be treated in detail apart from 
moral, social, and theological considerations ; and Plato's reference 
was ultimately to a reality independent of the mind. Reynolds, yer 
contra, despite his analogies between aesthetics, ethics, and science, 
treats the work of art, its subject, its producer, and its critic in a world 
of discourse largely divided off from other matters, and the un- 
changing, the universal, the Nature to which he appeals is con- 
tingent upon the faculties and functions of the mind human nature 
rather than cosmic nature is the source of his philosophic principles: 
"The first idea that occurs in the consideration of what is fixed in 
art, or in taste, is that presiding principle . . * the general idea of 
nature. . . . My notion of nature comprehends not only the forms 
which nature produces, but also the nature and internal fabrick and 
organization, as I may call it, of the human mind and imagination." 15 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 137 

This shift in orientation is seen in the treatment of the end of art: 
"The great end of all the arts is, to make an impression on the im- 
agination and the feeling. The imitation of nature frequently does 
this. Sometimes it fails, and something else succeeds. I think there- 
fore the true test of all the arts is not solely whether the production 
is a true copy of nature, but whether it answers the end of art, which 
is to produce a pleasing effect upon the mind." 16 

The reference of these and other problems to human nature is 
characteristic of Reynolds 3 age; the confinement of the scope of the 
dialectic to the aesthetic world the artist, his work (subject and 
style), and the audience which appreciates or judges it is the char- 
acteristic of the system which some critics have taken for a resem- 
blance to Aristotle j for it is this concentration on an aesthetic realm 
which permits the elaboration of rules fitted to particular arts. Never- 
theless, the elements which enter into the discussion (artist, work, 
and audience) are analogous to the elements of Aristotle's theory of 
rhetoric rather than to those of his analysis of 'poetic; and attribu- 
tions to Aristotle are valid only if by "Aristotle" we mean the inter- 
pretation of Aristotle by Platonizmg critics and philosophers. The real 
Aristotle was not the author of the theory of Ideal Beauty. The pas- 
sage usually cited to indicate Aristotle's supposed endorsement of 
this theory is his remark that "poetry is something more philosophic 
and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the na- 
ture of universals, whereas those of history are singulars" (Poetics 
145 i b 6-8). But Aristotle is discussing the probability or necessity 
by which a poem has an inner coherence independent of accident, 
whereas Reynolds, like Plato, is discussing the participation of indi- 
viduals in transcendent universals. Frances Blanshard argues from 
this passage that Aristotle (like Reynolds) was trying to answer 
Plato's attack on art, and that this answer consisted in showing that 
by imitating the general form of a species art gives knowledge of 
nature's unrealized ends. Reynolds (we are told) took this up, and 
used the empiricism of Locke and Hume to explain the generalizing 
process. 17 But for Aristotle, to consider art as essentially supply- 
ing knowledge would be a confusion of the poetic and theoretic 

Reynolds does make occasional excursions outside the restricted 
domain of art. These may be regarded analytically as relics of the 
original universal dialectic, though historically it might be more ac- 
curate to see them as tentative efforts to expand a more rigidly con- 

138 Beautiful and Sublime 

tracted tradition. However this may be, Reynolds frequently stresses 
the affiliation of aesthetics and ethics, taste and virtue: 

It has been often observed, that the good and virtuous man alone can 
acquire this true or just relish even of works of art. . . . The same 
disposition, the same desire to find something steady, substantial, and 
durable . . . actuates us in both cases. The subject only is changed. We 
pursue the same method in our search after the idea of beauty and per- 
fection m each; of virtue, by looking forwards beyond ourselves to so- 
ciety, and to the whole; of arts, by extending our views m the same 
manner to all ages and all times. 18 

And as here taste is analogized to virtue, so it may be identified with 
the love of truth: 

The natural appetite or taste of the human mind is for TRUTH; 
whether that truth results from the real agreement or equality of orig- 
inal ideas among themselves; from the agreement of the representation 
of any object with the thing represented; or from the correspondence of 
the several parts of any arrangement with each other. It is the very 
same taste which relishes a demonstration in geometry, that is pleased 
with the resemblance of a picture to an original, and touched with the 
harmony of musick. 19 

Thus, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful become, when perfected, 
equivalent: all are Nature. 20 The theoretic, the practical, and the pro- 
ductive sciences, which Aristotle carefully separated, are here, how- 
ever tentatively, merged: and these easy analogies are not found 
among the literal writers of the century, however fond many of 
them are of paralleling ethics and aesthetics. 

Nature and Art are related complexly and paradoxically in the 
aesthetics of Reynolds, for both "nature" and "art" are analogical 
terms and have multiple meanings in the system. Of course "art" 
as opposed to "nature" always means something learned or made: 
the works themselves, their subjects (for the great source of inspira- 
tion and often the model of imitation is the art of the past), the 
techniques of their production, the training of the artist, and the for- 
mation of taste in the audience ; all are in some sense art. The inter- 
relation of art and nature is discussed in terms of "imitation." 21 Art 
imitates nature; yet it is equally true that art may imitate art, and 
that great art transcends imitation. These paradoxes are made pos- 
sible by, and are resolved by reference to, the contrariety of general 
and particular. Imitation in the lowest sense is mere copying of par- 
ticular art works, an "imitating without selecting" in which the "pow- 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 139 

ers of invention and composition ... lie torpid." 22 It is distin- 
guished both from "borrowing" (incorporation of a thought, action, 
or figure from another painting, which "is so far from having any 
thing in it of the servility of plagiarism, that it is a perpetual exer- 
cise of the mind, a continual invention" 23 ) and from a true and 
proper imitation of the masters. This higher imitation is a catching 
of the spirit, a subjection to the same discipline 5 in a passage often 
compared to Longinus, Reynolds urges: "Instead of copying the 
touches of those great masters, copy only their conceptions. Instead 
of treading in their footsteps, endeavour only to keep the same 
road. . . . Possess yourself with their spirit. Consider how a Michael 
Angelo or a Raffaelle would have treated this subject: and work your- 
self into a belief that your picture is to be seen and criticized by them 
when completed." 24 Taken in this sense, imitation is "the true and 
only method by which an artist makes himself master of his profes- 
sion j which I hold ought to be one continued course of imitation, that 
is not to cease but with his life." 25 Imitation of one master is discour- 
aged, a general and eclectic imitation demanded 5 yet the artist can 
enter into a generous contention with the men whom he imitates, and 
,by correcting what is peculiar in each, transcend all. The entire course 
of study which Reynolds lays out for the student is a course in imi- 
tation, first of the object set before him, then of the manner of great 
workers in the art, then (while imitation of artists is not discontin- 
ued) of the abundance of nature itself. This progressive broadening 
of the object and manner of imitation culminates in the formation of 
a mind adequate to all times and all occasions. 

The last stage of this training directs attention to the imitation of 
nature rather than of art 5 and Reynolds can say in one discourse that 
art is not merely imitative of nature without contradicting other pro- 
nouncements that it is essentially imitative. When imitation is de- 
plored, it is imitation of particular nature j when it is applauded, it is 
imitation of general nature, either of the ideal specific forms of ex- 
ternal nature or of the principles of the mind. All "the arts receive 
their perfection from an ideal beauty, superior to what is to be found 
in individual nature." 26 For "a mere copier of nature can never pro- 
duce any thing great 5 can never raise and enlarge the conceptions, or 
warm the heart of the spectator" 5 all the arts "renounce the narrow 
idea of nature, and the narrow theories derived from that mistaken 
principle, and apply to that reason only which informs us not what 
imitation is, a natural representation of a given object, but what it 
is natural for the imagination to be delighted with." 27 

140 Beautiful and Sublime 

Indeed, the chief subject of the discourses is "that grand style of 
painting, which improves partial representation by the general and 
invariable ideas of nature." 28 This general nature is, consistently with 
Reynolds' philosophical principles, a conception in the mind of the 
artist 5 for although the conception is formed by abstraction from ex- 
ternal reality, the ideal itself has only a potential existence prior to 
its comprehension. Accordingly, the same distinction between copy- 
ing (on one hand) and invention, recombination, and improvement 
(on the other) obtains in the imitation of nature as in the imitation 
of artists: "Upon the whole, it seems to me, that the object and in- 
tention of all the Arts is to supply the natural imperfection of things, 
and often to gratify the mind by realizing and embodying what never 
existed but in the imagination." 29 

It is noteworthy that in the Discourses Reynolds does not advance 
the peculiarly literal conception of general nature which he expounded 
in the third of his Idler papers. 80 Beauty was there arbitrarily con- 
fined to form alone, and was found to be the medium or center of the 
various forms of a species or kind (that form which is more frequent 
than any one deviation from it not necessarily an average) ; this 
definition carried as corollaries, that the beauty of an individual could 
not be judged prior to the collection of statistics on its species, and 
that there could be no comparison in point of beauty between species. 
Refutations of Reynolds' theory from the eighteenth century to the 
present day have more often than not directed their battery against 
this paper, either directly or by reading the Discourses as an expan- 
sion of it and criticizing them accordingly. Thus, Sir Uvedale Price, 
who attempts to account for beauty by a mechanism partly nervous, 
partly associational, criticizes the Idler theory sharply, for beauty to 
Price does not depend on comparison within a species j Richard Payne 
Knight, who employs an elaborate faculty psychology in accounting 
for the several "beauties" of the various faculties, sees Reynolds as 
confining his notions to the intellectual qualities of things exclusively 5 
and Dugald Stewart, attempting to subsume previous theories with 
the aid of a theory of philosophical language, finds the Reynolds 
view narrow and inadequate. 81 The moderns, diverting attention from 
the systematic interrelations of Reynolds' ideas to their sources, or the 
sources of the terminology in which they are couched, rarely see 
Reynolds' thought as more than a $asticcio; but Roger Fry at least 
has deemed the theory of the central form worthy of refutation. 82 

I shall not enter upon the question of the validity of this doctrine j 
rather, I should like to consider briefly the formal or constitutive 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 141 

question of its appropriateness to Reynolds' system as a whole. I 
think that, viewed in this light, it is a misstep. The peculiar virtue 
and merit of a Platonic system of criticism consists in the flexibility 
or "ambiguity" of its terms, a flexibility which permits their analogi- 
cal application to a range of subjects and the consequent isolation in 
those subjects of the universal traits or "ideas" to which the terms 
refer. If it be asked, how can undefined terms isolate anything? the 
reply must be, that each such term receives definition in each context 
by comparison with and opposition to other terms of the system 5 in 
each application the meaning of the term emerges from its use in the 
argument, the "dialectic." If this indeterminacy of terms is a pre- 
requisite for a Platonic system that is not to be dogmatic, it is appar- 
ent that Reynolds erred in attempting to tie down so literally the 
meaning of "beauty" in the Idler papers. Ideality is not to be defined 
or given statistical delimitation. 33 

In the Discourses, the first of which was delivered ten years after 
the Idler papers were written, the freedom of the dialectic is unim- 
paired by dogmatic definition. Yet Reynolds never abandoned out- 
right his early theory. In a letter to Beattie in 1782, commenting on 
the manuscript of the essay on beauty which Beattie had submitted 
to him, he observes: "About twenty years since I thought much on 
this subject, and am now glad to find many of those ideas which 
then passed in my mind put in such good order by so excellent a 
metaphysician. My view of the question did not extend beyond my 
own profession 5 it regarded only the beauty of form which I attrib- 
uted entirely to custom or habit. You have taken a larger compass, 
including, indeed, everything that gives delight, every mental and 
corporeal excellence. . . ." And blandly (if not plausibly) Reynolds 
subsumes Seattle's system under his own: 

What you have imputed to convenience and contrivance, I think may 
without violence be put to the account of habit, as we are more used to 
that form in nature (and I believe in art, too) which is the most con- 
venient. ... I am aware that this reasoning goes upon a supposition 
that we are more used to beauty than deformity, and that we are so, I 
think, I have proved in a little Essay which I wrote about twenty-five 
years since, and which Dr. Johnson published in his Idler. . . . 

May not all beauty proceeding from association of ideas be reduced 
to the principle of habit or experience? You see I am bringing every- 
thing into my old principle, but I will now have done, for fear I should 
throw this letter likewise in the fire [the fate of an earlier and longer 
reply] 8 * 

142 Beautiful and Sublime 

In the discourses, too, Reynolds speaks of "presenting to the eye the 
same effect as that which it has been accustomed to feel, which in 
this case, as in every other, will always produce beauty. . . ." 35 But 
habit is not advanced as the single cause of all beauty, and in the dis- 
courses the earlier theory is quietly modified by sloughing off all the 
literal limitations on the concept of beauty. By so doing, Reynolds 
made his system one of the permanent alternatives of aesthetic the- 

It is apparent that beauty, treated in the manner of Reynolds, has 
the energy and grandeur customarily associated with the sublime j 
and, indeed, it is difficult to see how there could be more than one 
ideal type of general nature Reynolds' mode of reasoning automati- 
cally obviates the distinction between sublime and beautiful. Yet a 
distinction so pervasive in the literature of the century is certain to 
leave its mark; and Reynolds occasionally bifurcates his concept of 
the beautiful, setting the sublime against the "elegant." 3e These two 
characters are not co-ordinate 5 the dichotomy is between a higher 
beauty, the sublime, and a lower, the elegant. The elegant may be 
paired with taste and fancy, while the sublime is connected with genius 
and imagination ; alternatively, the elegant may be judged sensual. 
But the sublime, in any event, sweeps all before it: "The sublime in 
Painting, as in Poetry, so overpowers, and takes such a possession of 
the whole mind, that no room is left for attention to minute criticism. 
The little elegancies of art in the presence of these great ideas thus 
greatly expressed, lose all their value, and are, for the instant at 
least, felt to be unworthy of our notice. The correct judgment, the 
purity of taste, which characterize Raffaelle, the exquisite grace [ele- 
gance] of Correggio and Parmegiano, all disappear before them." 37 
When Reynolds is treating of art, Raffaelle stands for him "foremost 
of the first painters," 38 but when attention is directed towards genius 
and sublimity, then Michael Angelo, though he cannot match Raffa- 
elle in balance and completeness of artistic equipment, is supreme. 

There are passages in which Reynolds' sublime and elegant cor- 
respond pretty closely in application with Burke's sublime and beau- 
tiful. Reynolds draws, for instance, the inescapable contrast between 
the sublime landscapes of Salvator and the elegant scenes of Claude, 
between bold projections and gentle slopes, abruptly angular and 
gradually inclined branches, clouds rolling in volumes and gilded 
with the setting sun, and so forth. It is significant, however, that 
this coincidence of doctrine occurs in discussion of landscape, pre- 
where the difference of the two systems is minimum. In land- 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 143 

scape, the sublime is not of higher order than the elegant ; both 
Claude and Salvator are painters of the first rank, and the distinction 
between their styles is literal and descriptive. But in human subjects, 
the sublime springs from and appeals to higher faculties. The tastes 
of Burke and Reynolds, to be sure, are less different than their 
fashions of accounting for their tastes 5 but the difference in their ac- 
counts is radical. Burke's literal distinction of beauty and sublimity 
is often dissolved by Reynolds, and when not abandoned it is so 
transformed in content and established on so different a foundation 
that only in isolated contexts does any considerable resemblance ap- 
pear. Burke's famous distinction had become a verbal commonplace 
for succeeding aestheticians, to no two of whom did it convey the 
same meaning. 

Although Reynolds refers to Burke as< a truly philosophical aes- 
thetician, and although Burke is the only writer so praised, his influ- 
ence on Reynolds' thought was slight. 39 Even the essay on taste pre- 
fixed to the second edition of the Subkme and Beautiful (to which 
Thompson and Bryant assign some weight in determining Reynolds' 
opinions) has no clear relation to the theory of Reynolds. 40 For 
Burke, taste is "that faculty or those faculties of the mind which 
are affected with, or which form a judgment of, the works of imagi- 
nation and the elegant arts," whereas for Reynolds taste is "that 
faculty of the mind by which we like or dislike, whatever be the 
subject," a faculty which judges in the productive, practical, and 
theoretical sciences alike. 41 In the system of Burke, the aesthetic ex- 
cellences rest upon very different foundations from the moral virtues, 
but throughout the system of Reynolds there runs a recurrent analogy 
between beauty and virtue, and another between beauty and truth. 
Burke, in short, operates within a scheme of separate sciences and 
is in search of closely literal definitions of the aesthetic qualities he 
treats (even though those qualities pervade both nature and art), 
while Reynolds tends always to analogize the sciences and to "define" 
analogically and dialectically. The occasional verbal and doctrinal 
resemblances, then, are only isolated points of community in systems 
which are radically and fundamentally distinct. 42 

The criterion of taste for Reynolds is of course generality. Not 
only should the audience whose taste is appealed to be universal 
(always and everywhere), but it should appeal to general prin- 
ciples in judging works and their producers. Nature (true art) is dis- 
tinguished from fashion (false art) by the test of enduring and uni- 
versal fame. Great works, therefore, "speak to the general sense of 

144 Beautiful and Sublime 

the whole species 5 in which common . . . tongue, every thing grand 
and comprehensive must be uttered." 43 Yet at the same time, the 
artist may envisage an elect few his great predecessors as his 
audience, and this is not a contradiction, for these are the few who 
have sloughed off fashion and rejected particularity they are not 
men, but Man. Indeed, the appeal is never to the untutored taste 
of the multitude (which will always exhibit local and temporary 
particularity) but always to the taste the natural potentialities of 
which have been cultivated by art. For criticism both is an art and 
is developed through art, requiring for its cultivation the enthusiasm 
inspired by works of genius: "It must be remembered," says Reynolds, 
"that this great style itself is artificial in the highest degree, it pre- 
supposes in the spectator a cultivated and prepared artificial state of 
mind. It is an absurdity, therefore, to suppose that we are born with 
this taste, though we are with the seeds of it, which, by the heat 
and kindly influence of ... genius, may be ripened in us." 44 There 
is a hierarchy of criticisms as there is a hierarchy of imitations, each 
stage more inclusive than the preceding: comparison of works and 
masters within an art (which first test "must have two capital de- 
fects $ it must be narrow, and it must be uncertain" 46 ) 5 comparison 
of arts and their principles with one another j and comparison of all 
such principles "with those of human nature, from whence arts de- 
rive the materials upon which they are to produce their effects," 
which style is at once the highest and the soundest, "for it refers to 
the eternal and immutable nature of things," 46 

Taste so conceived is no different from genius, save that to genius 
there supervenes a power of execution. Indeed, all the elements of 
the system artist, audience, style, and subject are merged when 
in their perfected state: "The gusto grande of the Italians, the beau 
ideal of the French, and the great style, genius, and taste among 
the English, are but different appellations of the same thing." 47 
Genius, then, is only the imaginative power of apprehending general 
nature; but it is related to the universal in another sense as well, 
since it involves a collective effort, each artist being inspired by 
his own predecessors. Many of the Longinian passages in the dis- 
courses center about this last theme: "Whoever has so far formed his 
taste, as to be able to relish and feel the beauties of the great masters, 
has gone a great way in his study," Reynolds declares, "for, merely 
from a consciousness of this relish of the right, the mind swells 
with an inward pride, and is almost as powerfully affected, as if it had 
itself produced what it admires" 5 4S I need not quote the eulogy 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 145 

of Michael Angelo with which the discourses conclude. Even the 
"genius of mechanical performance/ 5 the painter's genius qua painter, 
participates in generality: it consists in "the power of expressing 
that which employs your pencil . . . as a whole? 49 contracting into 
one whole what nature has made multifarious by working up all 
parts of the picture together instead of finishing part by part. 

The paradox that genius is the product of art is the chief purport 
of the discourses: "The purport of this discourse, and, indeed, of 
most of my other discourses, is, to caution you against that false 
opinion ... of the imaginary powers of native genius, and its suf- 
ficiency in great works." 50 Because of the identifications already re- 
marked upon, the purpose of the discourses can also, of course, be 
stated in terms of taste ("My purpose in the discourses ... has 
been to lay down certain general positions, which seem to me proper 
for the formation of sound taste" 51 ) or in terms of the art itself (it 
became necessary, in order to reconcile conflicting precepts, "to dis- 
tinguish the greater truth . . . from the lesser truth 5 the larger and 
more liberal idea of nature from the more narrow and confined; that 
which addresses itself to the imagination, from that which is solely 
addressed to the eye. . . . [The] different rules and regula- 
tions which presided over each department of art, followed of 
course . . ." 52 ). Keeping, however, to the aspect of the discourses 
which centers upon genius it was certainly not Reynolds' view that 
natural powers have no efficacy, or that an Academy can make a 
Michael Angelo of any daubing student 5 a "man can bring home 
wares only in proportion to the capital with which he goes to 
market." 63 But natural powers are only a potentiality, and as a pro- 
fessor addressing students, or (more widely) as an aesthetician ad- 
dressing artists and critics with the view of forming taste and direct- 
ing practice, Reynolds deals with what is within human powers to 
alter, not with what is given by nature $ the question is, how to 
realize natural endowment and how to direct its efforts. Thus the 
relation of genius to rules can be stated variously: the opposition 
of genius to the narrow rules of any rigid intellectual system is a 
conventional topicj nonetheless, Reynolds urges, "what we now call 
Genius, begins, not where rules, abstractedly taken, end 5 but where 
known vulgar and trite rules have no longer any place. It must of 
necessity be, that even works of Genius, like every other effect, as 
they must have their cause, must likewise have their rules. . . ." 54 
These rules depend on the imagination and passions. The active 
principle of the mind demands variety, novelty, contrast 5 the pas- 

146 Beautiful and Sublime 

sive, uniformity, custom, repose ; and perfection lies in a mean. This 
is all obvious; noticeable is the slightness of the axiomata media 
under the guidance of which the universal qualities are found or 
embodied in particular works. But it is generally true of Platonic 
systems of criticism that instead of "rules" governing the relations 
of parts in a whole directed towards a specific end, "touchstones" 
are supplied which facilitate the recognition of the universal virtues 
in their concrete manifestations. So while Reynolds occasionally 
vouchsafes a rule (as that the masses of light in a picture be always 
of a warm, mellow color), these rules are few and slender, and the 
emphasis is on a complicated balancing of artists who embody the 
various aesthetic virtues and defects. 

All the problems of genius, of taste, and of art, then, are given 
their peculiar form in Reynolds' aesthetics by the dialectical method 
and psychological orientation of the system. Since the root is not a 
supernal nature but a terrestrial, the ideal universe being a product 
of imagination, the faculties of the mind play a crucial role. But 
Reynolds 3 view of the faculties is neither original nor complex 5 sense 
perceives, fancy combines, reason distinguishes. Appropriately, since 
imagination is the combining and generalizing power, the arts depend 
upon it for their higher qualities, and upon sense only by a conde- 
scension to the necessities of human nature. Such condescension is in- 
evitable, however, and art strives to give each faculty gratification: 
"Our taste has a kind of sensuality about it, as well as a love of the 
sublime; both these qualities of the mind are to have their proper 
consequence, as far as they do not counteract each other ; for that is 
the grand error which much care ought to be taken to avoid." 55 In the 
same way, opinion as well as truth must be regarded by the artist, 
and its authority is proportioned to the universality of the prejudice; 
"whilst these opinions and prejudices . . . continue, they operate as 
truth; and the art, whose office it is to please the mind, as well as in- 
struct it, must direct itself according to opinion, or it will not attain 
its end." 5e Such concessions, however guarded, mark the difference 
of this system from that of Plato, for whom the highest art of 
Reynolds would be second-best; for Plato, true art is dialectic, 
whereas for Reynolds, such an identification is prevented by the laws 
of the mind. Reason (as discriminating faculty) plays its role not in 
dictating the subjects of art but in assisting the artist to "consider and 
separate those different principles to which different modes of beauty 
owe their original ... to discriminate perfections that are incom- 
patible with each other." 5r Reason and taste may be identified with 

Sir Joshua Reynolds 147 

one another in some contexts, but when reason is "grounded on a 
partial view of things/ 3 in contrast with the habitual sagacity of im- 
agination, it must give way in art, imagination is "the residence of 
truth." 58 

The distinction of levels of argument is often accompanied by the 
bifurcation of concepts and the identification of the concepts on the 
higher level. This tendency is in Reynolds sometimes imperfectly 
realized or difficult to trace. Imagination and fancy, for instance, are 
not consistently or radically distinguished by him 5 in only one pas- 
sage are they explicitly contrasted: "Raffaelle had more Taste and 
Fancy ; Michael Angelo more Genius and Imagination. The one ex- 
celled in beauty, the other in energy. . . . Michael Angelo's 
works . . . seem to proceed from his own mind entirely. . . . 
Raffaelle's materials are generally borrowed, though the noble struc- 
ture is his own." 59 The couplings here suggest a difference of de- 
gree, imagination rearranging more freely and powerfully. Fancy is 
sometimes "capricious" and connected with the picturesque. 60 But al- 
though the distinction made familiar by Coleridge is here sought in 
vain, there is an obvious differentiation of artistic powers paralleling 
the contrast of the arbitrary, fashionable, and ornamental with the 
natural, simple, and beautiful. The distinction of sublime from ele- 
gant, and the identification of taste, genius, and style on the higher 
level, have been enough insisted upon. 

Reynolds' elaborate hierarchy of styles and species is made possible 
by the differentiation of mental powers and aesthetic characters which 
has been outlined. One set of distinctions depends upon dignity of 
subject: history, genre, landscape, portraiture, animal painting, 
still-life, and so on many of which classes are themselves susceptible 
of subdivision. Cutting across this hierarchy of genres is the contrast 
of a higher and a lower manner. In history, for instance, the grand 
style of Rome and Florence is set against the ornamental style of 
Venice and Flanders 5 and in the lower genres of the art, there is "the 
same distinction of a higher and a lower style j and they take their 
rank and degree in proportion as the artist departs more, or less, from 
common nature, and makes it an object of his attention to strike the 
imagination of the spectator by ways belonging specially to art. 
. . ." 61 Arts employing different means from painting are han- 
dled similarly in terms of object and manner, although some media 
may render the lower manner intolerable: sculpture (which Reynolds 
instances at length) must design in simplicity proportioned to the sim- 
plicity of its materials. Even the "non-imitative" arts of architecture 

148 Beautiful and Sublime 

and music exhibit parallel distinctions, with the higher quality related 
to the imagination by association rather than imitation, and the lower 
connected with utility and sense. The argument is always flexible, 
however, excellence in a lower style is preferred to mediocrity in a 
higher (a principle which Reynolds illustrates in the critique of 
Gainsborough), and it is erroneous to introduce the grand manner 
into a lower rank to which a different mode of achieving a qualified 
; generality is appropriate. In portraiture, for instance, universality is 
achieved not by idealizing beyond recognition but by catching the 
likeness "as a whole." Still another dimension is introduced in dis- 
cussion of the "characteristical" style, peculiar to the cast of mind of 
an individual painter j while such peculiarity is not referable to a true 
archetype in nature, and is not a proper object of imitation, it has its 
proper excellence in consistency and unity, "as if the whole proceeded 
from one mind." 62 

But Reynolds 3 attention returns always to the grand style, the key- 
stone of the arch. The grand style is universal in cause and in effect, 
in subject and in style 5 it is beautiful by abstracting from the particu- 
lar forms of nature, simple by rejecting the influence of fashion. Al- 
though grandeur requires simplicity which is truth it is still con- 
trary to truth, when truth is particular and historical. 63 The grand 
style concerns itself rather with "that ideal excellence which it is the 
lot of genius always to contemplate, and never to attain." 64 



THOMAS REID was the dean of that group of Scots whose 
thought has come to be known as "the Scottish philosophy/' a 
philosophy devised to combat what its propagators took to be the 
pernicious skepticism of Berkeley and (more especially) Hume. James 
Seattle, James Oswald, George Campbell, and Dugald Stewart were 
among the leading figures of the group. Gerard, Lord Kames, and 
Alison, moreover, were all associated with Reid 5 Kames, indeed, an- 
ticipated (in print) many of Reid's teachings. 1 

Reid had expounded his thought in lectures at King's College, Ab- 
erdeen, and later as Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, for 
thirty years before he published his major work, the Essays on the 
Intellectual Powers of Man (Edinburgh, 1785), the only work of 
Reid which touches upon the phenomena of aesthetics. 2 The eighth 
and last of the essays, "Of Taste," is Reid's only contribution to aes- 
thetic theory. Upon this brief statement, however, a considerable (and 
as I think, undeserved) reputation is grounded. Monk declares that 
Reid's was the "first attempt to use the sublime as an integral factor 
of a philosophical system" (a goal at last achieved by Kant), 3 and 
Robbins maintains that "Reid's aesthetics is the most philosophical 
and least amateurish of the whole English eighteenth-century spec- 
ulation. In this way, as in other ways, it may be compared favorably 
to contemporary German aesthetics." 4 The paucity of comment on 
Reid's aesthetics, however, in contrast with the numerous discussions 
of his metaphysics and ethics, suggests some doubt that Reid can be 
either profound or original. Indeed, the conclusion appears to me in- 
escapable, that Reid cared nothing for aesthetics $er se, and added 
the brief and perfunctory essay on taste to his Intellectual Powers 
only for the sake of systematically drawing all psychology under his 
favorite principles. 


150 Beautiful and Sublime 

In the first chapter of the essay, "Of Taste in General/ 3 Reid pur- 
sues an extended analogy between taste the external sense and taste 
the internal sense j a discrimination of the differences from the re- 
semblances of the two faculties permits a description of taste adequate 
for Reid's rather limited purposes. The initial "definition" of the in- 
ternal sense is conventional: "That power of the mind by which we 
are capable of discerning and relishing the beauties of Nature, and 
whatever is excellent in the fine arts, is called taste." 5 The analysis 
of this faculty is conducted in the terms characteristic of the Scottish 
school: the sensations of taste are distinguished intuitively from the 
real qualities of which they are the signs. "In the external sense of 
taste," Reid notes, "we are led by reason and reflection to distinguish 
between the agreeable sensation we feel, and the quality in the object 
which occasions it." 6 And in precisely the same way, "when a beauti- 
ful object is before us, we may distinguish the agreeable emotion it 
produces in us, from the quality of the object which causes that emo- 
tion." 7 This is commonplace and unexceptionable: the only novelty is 
that Reid should announce such doctrine as if it were novelty. Reid 
complains of the "fashion among modern philosophers, to resolve all 
our perceptions into mere feelings or sensations in the person that 
perceives, without anything corresponding to those feelings in the 
external object ... [so that] there is no beauty in any object what- 
soever 5 it is only a sensation or feeling in the person that perceives 
it." 8 But this is an opinion which no one ever held the "modern 
philosophers" (Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume) make just the 
analysis which Reid performs, finding sensations or feelings in the 
mind and the causes of these in objects. Sir William Hamilton very 
justly points out that the position which Reid struggles to refute on 
secondary qualities is a fiction: "There is thus no difference between 
Reid and the Cartesians," Hamilton concludes, "except that the 
doctrine which he censures is in fact more precise and explicit than 
his own." 9 

Further analogy between external and internal taste is found in 
the diversity of the sensations in each of these faculties 5 in the influ- 
ence of custom, fancy, and casual associations on both 5 and in the 
subordination of the determinations of each to a standard. Indeed, 
the establishment of a standard of taste is implicit in the distinction 
already drawn between sensation and real quality: "Every excellence 
has a real beauty and charm that makes it an agreeable object to 
those who have the faculty of discerning its beauty; and this faculty 
is what we call a good taste." 10 To be sure, there remains the chief 

Thomas Reid 151 

question, how we are to ascertain these objective excellences? But this 
much is gained, that disputes in taste are put on the same footing as 
disputes in questions of truth 5 every affirmation or denial of beauty 
expresses judgment. Reid very evidently considers that by introduc- 
ing judgment into the decisions of taste, he is overturning the "mod- 
ern philosophy": "If it be said that the perception of beauty is merely 
a feeling in the mind that perceives, without any belief of excellence 
in the object," he cries, "the necessary consequences of this opinion 
is, that when I say Virgil's 'Georgics 3 is a beautiful poem, I mean not 
to say anything of the poem, but only something concerning myself 
and my feelings. Why should I use a language that expresses the 
contrary of what I mean?" n Consistently with his intuitional system, 
Reid perpetually argues in this fashion from the forms of language: 
he even asserts that "no instance will be found of a distinction made 
in all languages, which has not a just foundation in nature." 12 This 
device really results, however, not in the more ready solution of 
problems, but in the shifting of argument from the things them- 
selves to the implications of the idioms of speech about them. 

The internal taste differs from the external in this: that though 
some of the beauties it perceives are indescribable and occult, un- 
known causes of the effects we feel (and thus resembling the second- 
ary qualities perceived by external taste), other beauties are expli- 
cable, and like primary qualities of matter can be isolated as causes 
of our aesthetic feelings. The internal sense differs, moreover, from 
all the external senses in that it is a reflex sense, depending on ante- 
cedent perception of the nature of the object: one may hear the ring- 
ing of a bell (Reid illustrates) with no other perception of the bell, 
but it is impossible to perceive beauty unless the object is already 
perceived by some other faculty the ear must hear the bell before 
taste can appreciate the beauty of its sound. 

So much for taste. The objects of it "Mr. Addison, and Dr. Aken- 
side after him, have reduced ... to three to wit, novelty, gran- 
deur, and beauty. This division is sufficient for all I intend to say 
upon the subject, and therefore I shall adopt it observing only, that 
beauty is often taken in so extensive a sense as to comprehend all the 
objects of taste 5 yet all the authors I have met with, who have given 
a division of the objects of taste, make beauty one species." 13 It is 
curious that Reid should retain this antique and exploded classifi- 
cation, for he observes at once that "novelty is not properly a quality 
of the thing to which we attribute it, far less is it a sensation in the 
mind to which it is new 5 it is a relation which the thing has to the 

152 Beautiful and Sublime 

knowledge of the person." 14 Reid lays no claim to originality in his 
observations on novelty, and his treatment, including reference to 
final cause, is conventional. 

The emotion raised by grand objects, Reid finds, is "awful, sol- 
emn, and serious" 5 the highest form of it is devotion, "a serious 
recollected temper, which inspires magnanimity, and disposes to the 
most heroic acts of virtue." This feeling is raised in us by perception 
of "such a degree of excellence, in one kind or another, as merits our 
admiration." 15 "Admiration," it will be recalled, was one of the in- 
ferior degrees of Burke's terrific sublime 5 Reid's piety and his real- 
ism alike preclude his accepting terror as the basis of the grand. Dread 
and admiration are alike grave and solemn, but differ in that "admi- 
ration supposes some uncommon excellence in its object, which dread 
does not." 16 Such excellence is found above all in Deity, then in hu- 
man virtue, then in matter considered as in some wise the effect or 
sign or analogue of mind, but though a key concept in the system, 
"excellence" remains undefined and unexammed. Reid pauses to 
argue against the "spirit of modern philosophy," which would lead 
us to suppose value only in our minds and not inherent in objects; 
but the argument consists only in an appeal to the judgment of man- 
kind as "expressed in the language of all nations, which uniformly 
ascribes excellence, grandeur, and beauty to the object, and not to the 
mind that perceives it," 1T together with the rhetorical question, can 
we conceive of a constitution of human nature which would prefer 
(what we now consider) inferiority to excellence? As so often, Reid 
is involved in an ignoratio elenchi: the "modern philosophers" were 
engaged in the inquiry, why do we value certain qualities? Reid 
answers, "Because they really are excellent," a reply which begs the 
question proposed. If asked to account for our awareness of this ex- 
cellence, Reid retires behind an intuition and declines the challenge. 

The most striking feature of Reid's aesthetics, however, is not 
this simple objectivism which bypasses the most intricate and impor- 
tant questions, but his denial that matter itself can have aesthetic 

When we consider matter as an inert, extended, divisible, and mov- 
able substance, there seems to be nothing in these qualities which we can 
call grand 5 and when we ascribe grandeur to any portion of matter, 
however modified, may it not borrow this quality from something in- 
tellectual, of which it is the effect, or sign, or instrument, or to which it 
bears some analogy? or, perhaps, because it produces in the mind an emo- 
tion that has some resemblance to that admiration which truly grand 
objects raise? 18 

Thomas Red 153 

This doctrine follows, perhaps, from the notion of excellence as the 
essence of grandeur, since it is difficult to see what "excellent" would 
mean as applied to matter as such. And it is this position which was 
to be adopted by Alison but adopted into a different systematic con- 
text and justified by elaborate inductions. For Reid, too, this is a 
derivative, not a primary truth ; matter is connected with mind 
through the relations of cause and effect, sign and significatum, agent 
and instrument. And matter may exhibit a similitude or analogy to 
acts and affections of mind; there is such an analogy Between great- 
ness of dimension, which is an object of external sense, and that 
grandeur which is an object of taste. On account of this analogy, the 
last borrows its name from the first; and, the name being common, 
leads us to conceive that there is something common in the nature of 
the things." 19 Robbins objects that Reid's denial of the beauty and 
grandeur of matter is in contradiction with his criterion of linguistic 
usage, since men clearly speak of beauty and grandeur as if they per- 
tained to matter. 20 Reid accounts adequately, however, for our habit 
of transferring these qualities from one relative to the other 5 we 
know mind (our own excepted) only as expressed in matter, and very 
naturally transfer to one what truly belongs to the other. But Reid 
does not explain in any detail this associative process; it is by giving 
detailed expositions of these phenomena, grounded on careful induc- 
tions, that Alison converts this doctrine from a dogma to a philosophi- 
cal theory. 

It should be noted that Reid preserves a distinction between gran- 
deur and sublimity not that which Lord Kames had maintained, but 
rather a differentiation which preserves the Longinian "sublime" as 
a character of discourse: "What we call sublime in description, or in 
speech of any kind, is a proper expression of the admiration and en- 
thusiasm which the subject produces in the mind of the speaker." 21 
Like the other aestheticians of his century, Reid subordinates art to 
nature and finds the true sublime to rise from grandeur in the sub- 
ject and a corresponding emotion in the speaker: "A proper^ exhibi- 
tion of these, though it should be artless, is irresistible, like fire 
thrown into the midst of combustible matter." 22 The sublimity of 
the Iliad is, then, the expression of the grandeur of the mind of 
Homer, or that of the persons of the action. "Upon the whole," Reid 
concludes with unction, "I humbly apprehend that true grandeur is 
such a degree of excellence as is fit to raise an enthusiastical admira- 
tion; that this grandeur is found, originally and properly, in quali- 
ties of mind; that it is discerned, in objects of sense, only by reflec- 
tion, as the light we perceive in the moon and planets is truly the 

Beautiful and Sublime 

light of the sun 5 and that those who look for grandeur in mere mat- 
ter, seek the living among the dead." 23 

Reid treats of beauty in the same terms as of grandeur: feeling 
and judgment, subjective response and objective excellence. What 
is found common to the beauty of objects of sense, of speech and 
thought, of arts and sciences, of actions, affections, and characters, is 
no identity or similarity of quality, but two circumstances common to 
our responses to these various beauties: "First, When they are per- 
ceived, or even imagined, they produce a certain agreeable emotion 
or feeling in the mind; and, secondly, This agreeable emotion is Ac- 
companied with an opinion or belief of their having some perfection 
or excellence belonging to them." 24 The term "beauty" is sometimes 
so extended as to comprise all objects of taste, including novelty and 
grandeur, sometimes so restricted as to be confined to objects of sight. 
To ascertain the meaning, Reid had adopted the trichotomy of nov- 
elty, grandeur, and beauty $ novelty being excluded as a mere rela- 
tion and no objective quality, it becomes clear that "every quality in 
an object that pleases a good taste, must, in one degree or another, 
have either grandeur or beauty. It may still be difficult to fix the pre- 
cise limit betwixt grandeur and beauty 5 but they must together com- 
prehend everything fitted by its nature to please a good taste that is, 
every real perfection and excellence in the objects we contemplate." 2o 
The emotions excited differentiate the two characters, for the object of 
admiration is grand, that of love and esteem beautiful. More fully, 
"the emotion produced by beautiful objects is gay and pleasant. It 
sweetens and humanises the temper, is friendly to every benevolent 
affection, and tends to allay sullen and angry passions. It enlivens 
the mind, and disposes it to other agreeable emotions, such as those 
of love, hope, and joy. It gives a value to the object, abstracted from 
its utility." 26 As the feeling is in the mind, so is the judgment a judg- 
ment of excellence in the object. Like all judgments, this must be 
true or false 5 when the judgments of men concur, we may conclude 
(Reid assures us) that there really is an objective excellence. 

Our sense of beauty is partly instinctive, partly rational. In some 
instances (Reid mentions the colors and forms of flowers) we per- 
ceive an occult beauty or excellence the causes of which in the object 
we cannot analyze 5 in others (as in a well-contrived machine) we can 
give reasons for our judgment and point to the perfections which 
please. Beauty itself may be original or derived, and if "the distinc- 
tion between the grandeur which we ascribe to qualities of mind, and 
that which we ascribe to material objects, be well founded, this dis- 

Thomas Reid 155 

tinction of the beauty of objects will easily be admitted as perfectly 
analogous to it." 27 Derived beauties depend upon transference be- 
tween sign and significatum, cause and effect, end and means, agent 
and instrument, and upon inexplicable similitude. Original beauty is 
sought in those qualities of mind which are the natural objects of 
love, "the whole train of the soft and gentle virtues." 2S Intellectual 
talents like sense, wit, cheerfulness, taste ; and bodily talents like 
health, strength, and agility have also an original beauty, though 
the bodily talents (we are told) are perfections because they render 
the body a fit instrument for the mind. (It is a question, why the 
physical talents, being thus instrumental to the mind, are not derived 
rather than original beauties.) Reid does not stress the grandeur of 
talents, though he does mention cursorily that "we admire great tal- 
ents and heroic virtue"; 29 intellectual power and physical strength 
both seem more admirable than lovely. 

Reid attributes his opinion that beauty originally dwells only in 
the moral and intellectual perfections of mind, and in its active 
powers, and that these are the sources of all the beauty of the visible 
world, to the "ancient philosophers," and among the moderns 
to Shaftesbury and Akenside. I doubt, however, that any of these 
authors, classical or modern, would subscribe to the opinion as Reid 
has developed it 5 his originality is greater than he claimed in his pub- 
lished works. In an oft-quoted letter to Archibald Alison, however, 
acknowledging Alison's complimentary copies of the Essays on the 
Nature and Principles of Taste, he states that Plato, Shaftesbury, and 
Akenside "handle the subject of beauty rather with the enthusiasm 
of poets or lovers, than with the cool temper of philosophers," and 
that Hutcheson and Spence (to all whom Alison had attributed the 
doctrine) do not really seem to subscribe to a view like his own. "On 
these grounds," he continues, "I am proud to think that I first, in clear 
and explicit terms, and in the cool blood of a philosopher, maintained 
that all the beauty and sublimity of objects of sense is derived from 
the expression they exhibit of things intellectual, which alone have 
original beauty. But in this I may deceive myself, and cannot claim 
to be held an impartial judge." 30 This doctrine, though but slightly 
developed by Reid himself, remains his major contribution to aes- 
thetic theory. 

Minds other than our own are perceived only through their sig- 
natures impressed on visible objects, and the chief expressions of 
mind are in fitness and design, save where (as in the human person) 
there can be a direct expression of moral excellence; in every form, 

Beautiful and Sublime 

matter "derives its beauty from the purposes to which it is ^ subservi- 
ent, or from the signs of wisdom or of other mental qualities which 
it exhibits." 31 In general, Reid slights the beauties of expression of 
emotion and character except where such expression is patent (as in 
the countenance) 5 his analysis, dwelling upon fitness and design, is 
more that of a natural theologian than that of an aesthetician. He 
thinks of the botanist as the proper critic of floral beauties and surely 
the soul of an artist would wither in tracing the "thousand beautiful 
contrivances of Nature [in plants], which feast his understanding 
more than their external form delighted his eye." 32 There are, in 
consequence, no devices for comparing in point of beauty different 
specific forms, equally fit for equally noble ends. Is an ostrich as 
beautiful as a bird of paradise? If Reid is to deny that it is, he must 
have recourse to the inexplicable and occult beauty which is appre- 
hended instinctively and occult causes are not satisfying as explana- 
tions. What is lacking in Reid is an aesthetic of form and color, such 
as that which Alison was to devise without abandoning Reid's prin- 
ciple that matter has no inherent beauty. 

What Reid does say on the derived beauty of sound, color, form, 
and motion, is occasionally fanciful, as in the remarkable argument 
that the terms "concord" and "discord" are literally applicable to 
conversation and only analogically to music. There is a partial truth 
in this view etymologically; but it is unrealistic to appeal to etymol- 
ogy, for in actual usage men apply "concord" and "discord" literally 
to music and figuratively to social interchange the evidence of lan- 
guage is against Reid. Reid even appears to say, that the voices of 
persons engaged in amicable conversation are acoustically harmo- 
nious 5 this is truly "forcing all nature to submit." The admonition 
which Dugald Stewart directed to Home Tooke is perhaps appli- 
cable to Reid as well: "to appeal to etymology in a philosophical ar- 
gument (excepting, perhaps, in those cases where the word itself is 
of philosophical origin,) is altogether nugatory, and can serve, at the 
best, to throw an amusing light on the laws which regulate the opera- 
tions of human fancy." 33 In the case of concord, Reid is led to ignore 
the mechanical pleasure of harmony in favor of a subtle analogy 
from which (I think) little or no pleasure proceeds. 

Reid draws his rubrics for treatment of human beauty from 
Spence's Crito color, form, expression, and grace pointing out, of 
course, that all are ultimately expression. The slenderness of this 
system is apparent when Reid tells us that (casual associations aside) 
the beauty of coloring depends solely on the expression of health and 

Thomas Reid 157 

liveliness, and in the fair sex softness and delicacy, or that beauty of 
form is expression of strength or agility in the male, delicacy and 
softness in the female. Even the beauty of expression proper shares 
this simplism indications of meekness, gentleness, benignity are 
beauties, &c. And grace, the "last and noblest part of beauty," con- 
sists in those motions, either of the whole body, or of a part or fea- 
ture, which express "the most perfect propriety of conduct and senti- 
ment in an amiable character." 34 

Grandeur and beauty, though between them they exhaust the 
realm of taste, are nonetheless not exclusive. In some instances the 
very qualities which are beautiful in ordinary degree become grand 
in extraordinary. It is this circumstance, perhaps, which accounts for 
the sketchy treatment of grandeur. Inadequate as is Reid's aesthetic 
of beauty, it is at any rate more comprehensive and detailed than the 
aesthetic of grandeur, which provides no discussion of the grandeur 
of the material world. Reid is content to make his point that material 
grandeur is a reflection of mental 5 with this principle in hand, he is 
able to approach the more extensive quality, beauty, in its principal 
manifestations. The content of a Reidian analysis of grandeur must be 
arrived at by extrapolation. 

Actually, Reid seems to have been little interested in aesthetics, 
apart from the desire methodically to fill out his system, and to have 
had slight aesthetic sensibility. His thought, perplexed with intui- 
tions, unanalyzed principles, implausible reductions, and gaping 
lacunae, would be of minor importance had it not provided a prin- 
ciple which Alison was shortly to put to such effective use in a very 
different system. 


^Archibald ^Alison 

THE REVEREND Archibald Alison's Essays on the Nature 
and, Principles of Taste appeared at Edinburgh in 1790. This 
first edition of a book which was to revolutionize aesthetic specula- 
tion in Britain, and which exhibited an originality, complexity, and 
logical coherence unmatched in British aesthetics, was little heeded. 
A review, to be sure, appeared in the Monthly, l but when Payne 
Knight mentioned Alison slightly and slightingly in his Analytical 
Inquiry of 1804, the reference must have puzzled many a reader. 
Price had written his Essay on the Picturesque and its sequels without 
alluding to Alison 5 Repton and the anonymous author of Essays on 
the Sources of the Pleasures Received from Literary Compositions 
(1809) do not mention him. The philosophers Reid and Stewart 
knew and esteemed Alison and his treatise. Reid's works were all in 
print by 1790, but he wrote a letter of considerable interest on receiv- 
ing complimentary copies of Alison's Essays; 2 Stewart refers with 
approbation to the Essays in the first volume of his Elements of the 
Philosophy of the Human Mind, (1792), and in the Philosophical 
Essays of 1810 enters upon the only serious discussion of Alison to 
appear before the second edition of the Essays? Burns wrote enthusi- 
astically to Alison on reading a gift copy of the treatise. 4 But this is 
all 5 the Essays on Taste had pretty well gone under when the second 
and enlarged edition was published in 1811. This edition met with a 
far different reception. Favored by the proselytizing efforts of Jeffrey, 
who played Huxley to Alison's Darwin, the theory of associationism 
came to be widely accepted as the new gospel. 5 Editions appeared 
in quick succession in 1812, 1815, 1817, 1825, and 18425 this last 
and those thereafter reprint Jeffrey's critique as a prolegomenon to 
Alison's treatise. Brown's fifty-sixth lecture (printed in the Lectures 
of 1820) treats of Alison's theory j and other references to it in philo- 


Archibald Ahson 159 

sophic and aesthetic literature, especially among the Scottish school, 
become frequent. It is symptomatic of the change, that when Sir 
Thomas Dick Lauder edited Sir Uvedale Price on the Picturesque 
in 1842, he did so partly with the idea of supplying the proper as- 
sociational underpinnings for Price's theories, his introductory "Essay 
on the Origin of Taste" being a version of Jeffrey's version of Alison. 
Bosanquet has condescended to notice the importance of Alison as an 
influence, though he sees the influence as pernicious (arguing that 
"the real problem, viz., what is accidental in association and what is 
not," was untouched by the associational writers). 6 The importance 
of Alison's work to the theory and practice of the romantic period 
has never been assessed, but is beyond the scope of this study, and I 
turn to examination of the system itself. 

Alison's purpose is essentially speculative rather than practical. 
His concern is with aesthetics as a branch of psychology and meta- 
physics rather than as a science directed towards establishing rules for 
practice. His investigations of course do have practical implications: 
"They have an immediate relation to all the Arts that are directed 
to the production either of the Beautiful or the Sublime 5 and they 
afford the only means by which the principles of these various arts 
can be ascertained." 7 But only on occasion, and never at length, does 
Alison draw out the critical rules which depend from the aesthetic. 

"TASTE is, in general, considered as that Faculty of the Human 
Mind, by which we perceive and enjoy whatever is BEAUTIFUL or 
SUBLIME in the works of Nature or Art." 8 This, the opening sen- 
tence of the treatise, suggests the three inquiries which the total in- 
vestigation would include: certain 'properties of things produce cer- 
tain states of mind through the medium of a certain faculty. This is a 
causal analysis: the emotions of taste are the effect, and the problem 
is to determine through what mediating links the properties of nat- 
ural and artificial objects are efficient in producing these emotions. 
This is, of course, the traditional method of British aesthetics 5 the 
novelty in Alison's theory is in the causes discovered. There are, then, 
three inquiries for Alison. First (i) comes ascertainment of the effects 
to be accounted for. Accepting as he does most of the traditional vo- 
cabulary, Alison naturally sees this inquiry as an analysis of the emo- 
tions of beauty and sublimity. Involved by implication is another and 
subordinate investigation (IA) into the origin of the beauty and sub- 
limity of the qualities of matter. "To this subordinate Inquiry I shall 
devote a separate Essay," Alison writes, an essay designed to "shew 
that all the Phenomena are reducible to the same general Principle, 

160 Beauttjul and Sublime 

and that the Qualities of Matter are not beautiful or sublime in 
themselves, but as they are ... the Signs or Expressions of Quali- 
ties capable of producing Emotion." 9 The main inquiry into our 
emotions of taste will uncover a certain mechanism of association ; 
this subordinate inquiry will show that certain types of ideas are al- 
ways involved in the association. It must be granted that it presses 
rather hard upon the second inquiry, which is (n) to "investigate 
the NATURE of those QUALITIES that produce the Emotions of 
TASTE" IQ to determine, that is, the sources of the beautiful and 
sublime in nature and art. This investigation will show that any sim- 
ple emotion, together with the appropriate activity of the imagination, 
may give rise to emotions of taste, and will determine "what is that 
LAW of MIND, according to which, in actual life, this exerdse or em- 
ployment of imagination is excited 5 and what are the means by which, 
in the different Fine Arts, the artist is able to awaken this important 
exercise of imagination, and to exalt objects of simple and common 
pleasure, into objects of Beauty or Sublimity.' 7 n Subjoined to this 
inquiry are two other investigations, into (IIA) that familiar problem, 
how painful subjects can be beautiful, whether in nature or in art, 
and into (IIB) the distinction, both in the emotions and in their 
causes, of the sublime from the beautiful. The third principal inquiry 
(m) is "to investigate the NATURE of that FACULTY, by which these 
Emotions [of Taste] are received." 12 And subordinate to this discus- 
sion is treatment (IIIA) of another familiar crux for the empirical 
aestheticians the standard of taste. Finally, Alison (who was, after 
all, a divine) proposed to illustrate (IIIB) the final cause of this con- 
stitution of our nature. 

The Essays as written correspond, strictly speaking, to inquiries 
i and IA. The discussion of IA, however (as I have suggested above), 
involves much of the material which would be employed for n, and 
affords pretty good hints for IIB. The treatment of i, in the same 
fashion, affords some insight into Alison's views on nij and the coda 
to the final chapter of the second essay is really IIIB. This leaves us 
lacking only the discussion of the two cruxes the pleasing effect of 
painful subjects and the standard of taste. I do not think it difficult to 
conjecture at the approach which Alison would have used in treat- 
ing these two problems. Indeed, for Alison to have followed out his 
plan in full would have necessitated intolerable repetition of argu- 
ment and illustration. We may regard the existing Essays as consti- 
tuting the basis and outline of the entire system. The system is de- 

Archibald Alison 161 

veloped by specifying as closely as possible the two variables in an 
associationist theory the component ideas and impressions, and the 
relations which connect them. It is not necessary to recapitulate in 
full the content of the analysis 3 this exposition will be accomplished 
incidentally in investigation of the logic by which Alison establishes 
his hypothesis. 

The first of the two essays is intended to separate the emotions of 
taste from their acddental concomitants and to resolve them into 
their several components. Previous aestheticians, as Alison saw it, had 
fallen into one or other of two errors: either (as with artists and 
amateurs, who attend more to the causes of their emotions than to 
the emotions themselves) they traced the emotions of taste directly 
to original laws of our nature, supposing a sense or senses appropriated 
to the perception of beauty and sublimity; or (as with introspective 
philosophers) they resolved the phenomena of taste into some more 
general law of our mental constitution. But both approaches have 
been based on the delusive notion that the emotions of taste are qual- 
itatively simple 3 the first stage of Alison's analysis is designed to 
show that they are complex. 13 

The conclusion of the first essay is that the emotions of taste are 
A REGULAR TRAIN OF IDEAS OF EMOTION." 14 I shall examine in detail 
the reasoning which leads to this summary proposition, for in it we 
find for the first time in aesthetic theory an adequate inductive argu- 

The first major division of that argument (the first chapter) is de 
signed to prove that the effect produced on the mind by objects oi 
beauty and sublimity consists in evocation of an associating activity 
of the imagination. Alison's own words suggest the three evidences 
for this judgment: "that whenever the emotions of Sublimity oi 
Beauty are felt, that exercise of Imagination is produced, which con- 
sists in the indulgence of a train of thought; that when this exercise 
is prevented, these emotions are unfelt or unperceived; and that 
whatever tends to increase this exercise of mind, tends in the same 
proportion to increase these emotions." 15 The first of these three 
evidences is manifestly an application of the Method of Agree- 
ment, 16 though in truth the concomitance of the emotions of taste 
with this associative activity of imagination is rather asserted than 
proved 5 the instances are rather illustrations than the basis for a 
complete induction. "Thus," Alison observes in characteristic style, 

1 62 Beautiful and Sublime 

when we feel either the beauty or sublimity of natural scenery, the 
gay lustre of a morning m spring, or the mild radiance of a summer 
evening, the savage majesty of a wintry storm, or the wild magnificence 
of a tempestuous ocean, we are conscious of a variety of images in our 
minds, very different from those which the objects themselves can pre- 
sent to the eye. Trains of pleasing or of solemn thought arise sponta- 
neously within our minds; our hearts swell with emotions, o which the 
objects before us seem to afford no adequate cause; and we are never 
so much satiated with delight, as when, in recalling our attention, we are 
unable to trace either the progress or the connection of those thoughts, 
which have passed with so much rapidity through our imagination. 17 

Such instances, however, are sufficient to render Alison's theory cred- 
ible as an hypothesis, and this is really all that the Method of Agree- 
ment can do, for the phenomena coincidence of which is indicated 
in this fashion may be joint effects, or may be casually and indiffer- 
ently combined while plurality of causes obtains. 

The second section of the chapter goes much further towards a 
conclusive proof 5 if it be successfully proved that without the excita- 
tion of imagination, the emotions of taste are unfelt, we have ful- 
filled (considering this result conjointly with that of the first section) 
the conditions of the Joint Method of Agreement and Difference. 
Indeed, in some of the instances the conditions of the Method of 
Difference itself are very nearly fulfilled 3 the subject, however, is in- 
susceptible of conclusive application of the Method of Difference, and 
Alison's proof is as firm an induction as can be obtained. The particu- 
lar phenomena adduced within the section are three. Alison notes, 
first, that if the state of mind is such as to obstruct the play of fancy, 
aesthetic sensibility is correspondingly dulled. The sunset or the 
poem which at one time is so affecting, is at another indifferent to usj 
on the former occasions, the mind is unembarrassed by engrossing ob- 
jects of thought and free to receive all the impressions which the ob- 
Meets before us can produce, but "the seasons of care, of grief, or of 
business, have other occupations, and destroy, for the time at least, 
our sensibility to the beautiful or the sublime, in the same proportion 
that they produce a state of mind unfavourable to the indulgence of 
imagination." 18 Here is the disinterestedness, the detachment from 
practical desire, on which the German aestheticians have insisted so 
strongly as a characteristic of aesthetic experience j the simple practi- 
cal emotions do not involve, unless accidentally, this employment of 

Secondly (I return to the three evidences for the indispensability 

Archibald Alison 163 

of this role of imagination), the exercise of the critical faculty di- 
minishes or destroys the perception of beauty. "The mind, in such an 
employment," Alison writes, "instead of being at liberty to follow 
whatever trains of imagery the composition before it can excite, is 
either fettered to the consideration of some of its minute and solitary 
parts; or pauses amid the rapidity of its conceptions, to make them 
the objects of its attention and review. In these operations, accord- 
ingly, the emotion, whether of beauty or sublimity, is lost, and if it 
is wished to be recalled, it can only be done by relaxing this vigour 
of attention, and resigning ourselves again to the natural stream of 
our thoughts." 19 

And thirdly, Alison remarks that permanent differences of char- 
acter produce corresponding differences in sensibility. The relation 
chiefly operative in the associative trains of taste is resemblance, and 
men differ by nature in their susceptibility to this relation 5 those who 
are attentive rather than imaginative, those whose associations are di- 
rected by habits of business or of philosophic investigation, are so far 
insensible to beauty. It must be noted that this third evidence is less 
cogent than the two previous, for it involves a comparison of differ- 
ent persons. The same individual, however, may be at one moment 
abstracted, at another at leisure, at one moment critical, at another 
sensitive j such cases go beyond the crude application of the Joint 
Method to approach the Method of Difference. Of course, no psy- 
chological phenomenon so complex as taste can be brought under the 
Method of Difference in the strictest sense, for it is impossible amid 
such intermixture of effects to be certain that only one element has 
been changed. 

What has already been adduced amounts to a tolerable induction. 
But it can be strengthened 5 if it can be shown that aesthetic sensibil- 
ity varies directly as the mobility of imagination, the Method of 
Concomitant Variations lends its force to the conclusion. That^ sensi- 
bility does so vary, Alison makes clear in the final section of this first 
chapter: every variety of association personal, historical, national, 
professional may swell our emotions of beauty and sublimity, and 
the strength and character of the emotions does vary proportionately 
to the kind and number of these associations which can attach them- 
selves to the object of immediate experience. Again, this same effect 
of enrichment is produced by what Alison terms "Picturesque Ob- 
jects." The term "picturesque" becomes here a systematic or tech- 
nical term; it has a meaning derived from and peculiarly appropri- 
ate to Alison's mode of analysis. An object is picturesque if it is 

X 64 Beautiful and Sublime 

such as to awaken a train of associations additional to what the scene 
as a whole is calculated to excite. Picturesque objects are "in general, 
such circumstances, as coincide, but are not necessarily connected with 
the character of the scene or description, and which, at first affecting 
the mind with an emotion of surprise, produce afterwards an in- 
creased or additional train of imagery." 20 Thus, an old tower in the 
middle of a deep wood, an evening bell at sunset whatever is dis- 
tinct from but capable of blending with, the general character is 
picturesque. Yet another confirmatory circumstance is the influence 
of an early acquaintance with poetry upon the appreciation of nature. 
One is tempted to add as a parallel (and I think a stronger) instance, 
the influence of the seventeenth-century landscape painters in form- 
ing the taste of the eighteenth century, or that of the great British 
landscape artists in forming the taste of more recent times. 

This opening chapter of the two which constitute the essay has 
proved that trains of association are indispensable to the emotions 
of beauty and sublimity, that they are a part of the cause of aesthetic 
feeling. But a part only, for trains of association constantly pass 
through the mind without being attended by such emotions. The pe- 
culiar character which defines aesthetic trains of thought consists, 
Alison asserts, "u/, In respect of the Nature of the ideas of which 
it is composed, by their being ideas productive of Emotion: and 'idly, 
In respect of their Succession, by their being distinguished by some 
general principle of connection, which subsists through the whole ex- 
tent of the train," 21 This is an exhaustive distinction. For in an as- 
sociational psychology there are two variables only the nature or 
quality of the component ideas, and the fashion in which they come 
into being. (It will be recalled that of Hume's seven philosophical 
relations of ideas, four resemblance, contrariety, quality, and quan- 
tity depend on the nature of the ideas related, while three identity, 
causation, relations of space and time depend on the mode of exist- 
ence of the related ideas.) When Alison develops a thorough treat- 
ment of each of these variables, he has exhausted the potentialities of 
his system. 

The three sections of the second chapter of the essay are devoted, 
the first to the statement of the two branches of this doctrine, the 
second and third to the inductive proof of these two branches. Alison's 
position on the nature of the ideas comprised in aesthetic trains of 
association is, "That no objects, or qualities in objects, are, in fact, 
felt either as beautiful or sublime, but such as are productive of some 
Simple Emotion. . , ." 22 Such emotive ideas Alison terms, by a 

Archibald Alison 165 

sort of metonymy, "Ideas of Emotion." His contention is supported 
by noting that some simple affection is always excited before the 
more complex emotion of taste is felt. That this in turn is true, is sup- 
ported by a series of observations: "if it is found, that no qualities are 
felt, either as beautiful or sublime, but such as accord with the habit- 
ual or temporary sensibility of our minds ; that objects of the most 
acknowledged beauty fail to excite their usual emotions, when we 
regard them in the light of any of their uninteresting or unaffecting 
qualities 5 and that our common judgments of the characters of men 
are founded upon this experience, it seems that there can be no 
doubt of the proposition itself." 23 The reasoning on this head is not, 
however, so subtle nor so complex as to demand minute criticism. 

But the organization of the final section of the chapter is neater 
and more systematic. The doctrine here to be supported is, that the 
ideas composing a train of aesthetic association are strung on the 
thread of a single pervading emotion, whereas the components of an 
ordinary train of thought are connected each with the adjacent ideas 
before and after but without any one general relation informing the 
entire train. To establish this point., Alison examine_tb p p^ n ^p1f; c 
ofjx)mposition in a series of arts gardening, bnrJ^pft paintilLjLJ A ~ 
scriptive poetry, narrative and Dramatic jxjgtiy^ He does not, of 
course, assemble all the instances for a complete induction, an im- 
possible task with artifacts which do not have a common specific na- 
ture j rather, he gives illustrations which call upon general experience 
in support of their implications. It is still an inductive argument, al- 
beit an induction manque. The conclusion is, "that, in all the Fine 
Arts, that Composition is most excellent, in which the different parts 
most fully unite in the production of one unmingled Emotion 5 and 
that Taste the most perfect, where the perception of this relation of 
objects, in point of expression, is most delicate and precise." 24 Notice 
that while the discussion of each art individually is a cursory applica- 
tion of the Joint Method of Agreement and Difference (since both 
"good" and cc bad" instances are adduced), the consecutive handling 
of the four arts fulfills the conditions of the Method of Concomitant 
Variations. For painting exceeds gardening in its power of selecting 
and combining into wholes of greater purity and simplicity of ex- 
pression 3 descriptive poetry, and above all narrative and dramatic 
poetry, enjoy yet greater power over their materials. And as the 
power of the art over its subjects is greater, the insistence of taste 
upon achievement of unity is proportionately more exacting. 

The peculiar aesthetic pleasure, then, must be "composed of the 

Beautiful and Sublime 

pleasures which separately attend the exercise of these faculties [pas- 
sion and imagination], or, in other words, as produced by the union 
of pleasing Emotion, with the pleasure which, by the constitution of 
our nature, is annexed to the exercise of Imagination." 25 I judge Ali- 
son's opinion to be, that the two pleasures coexist without producing 
any tertium quid, that we can still discern in their union the separate 
components. This, however, does not follow necessarily from the 
positions previously established 5 these arguments had proved that 
the emotions of taste were caused by (/) excitation of a simple emo- 
tion, and (2) stimulation of the imagination in a certain way. Now 
there are three manners of causation: the causes may continue to exist 
commingled, the effect being only their coexistence -, they may perish 
in producing an effect wholly different from its causes 5 or they may 
produce an effect distinguishable from themselves, yet coexist with 
it. Alison's observation that beauty is always cheerful, sad, or elevated, 
according with the primary emotion upon which it is based, certainly 
rules out the second of these three alternatives. The suggestion that 
the term "delight" be appropriated to aesthetic "pleasure" suggests 
the third 5 yet other passages suggest the first, or blur these distinc- 
tions. It would at any rate be possible for an Alisonian to elect the 
third of the alternatives I have specified, to argue that in beauty 
caused by, say, gaiety or serenity, the serenity or gaiety might be 
still perceptible throughout the experience, yet that the beauty qua 
beauty might be characterized by a feeling peculiar to itself. All 
beauty might be thought (as Poe thought it) melancholy, this feel- 
ing existing alongside whatever emotion was the stimulus of the aes- 
thetic feeling. 

Be this as it may. We have followed the reasoning of the first, the 
"metaphysical," essay in the proof that the complex emotions of 

essay (rather more than three quarters of the treatise) is devoted to 
determining the source "Of the Sublimity and Beauty of the Material 
World." It will be recalled, that in discussing the outline of Alison's 
whole plan for his system, it was difficult to locate this second essay 
with precision, for it appears to comprehend both "IA" and "n" both 
the inquiry into the origin of the beauty and sublimity of matter, and 
the investigation into the qualities producing the emotions of taste. 
The explanation of this difficulty is not far to seek. The beautiful and 
sublime of material qualities is a crux for Alison, since he thinks 
that "it must be allowed, that Matter in itself is unfitted to produce 

Archibald Alison 167 

any kind of emotion. The various qualities of matter are known to us 
only by means of our external senses 5 but all that such powers of our 
nature convey, is Sensation and Perception 3 and whoever will take 
the trouble of attending to the effect which such qualities, when 
simple and unassociated, produce upon his mind, will be satisfied, 
that in no case do they produce Emotion, or the exercise of any of 
his affections." 27 This is a problem in the nature of eQects y and may 
appropriately be treated in connection with "i" ascertainment of the 
effects to be accounted for. Yet it involves causes too, once removed 
by association, for the qualities of matter produce emotion by associa- 
tion with mental traits. Alison is thus led to treat "n" together with 
"IA"$ his plan could not be completed as originally sketched without 
repetition. Still remaining for his second division, of course, would 
be the knotty problem of explaining how mental properties produce 
emotions in percipients but this, I suspect, is not explicable unless 
in terms of final causes. 

McCosh considers that Alison's treatise leaves untouched two 
great problems: "The question arises, What starts the train [of asso- 
ciation] ? and a farther question follows, What gives the unity and 
harmony to the train? An answer to these questions, or rather to this 
question for the questions are one, may disclose to our view an ob- 
jective beauty and sublimity very much overlooked by Alison, and 
the supporters of the association theory. 33 2S I do not conceive that 
these objections are fatal to Alison's theory, or that he need postulate 
some objective beauty to evade them 5 it is true, however, that much 
of his analysis depends from a theory of the passions which is no- 
where presented to us, and that he does not discuss the interaction of 
association and attention in channeling the mental train. 

Solution of the paradox that material qualities produce aesthetic 
effects although matter is inherently incapable of arousing emotion 
occupies the bulk of the essay 5 the argument is succinctly stated by 
Alison himself: 

The illustrations that have been offered in the course of this ESSAY 
upon the origin of the SUBLIMITY and BEAUTY of some of the principal 
qualities of MATTER, seem to afford sufficient evidence for the following 

I. That each of these qualities is either from nature, from experience, 
or from accident, the sign of some quality capable of producing Emotion, 
or the exercise of some moral affection. And, 

II. That when these associations are dissolved, or in other words, 
when the material qualities cease to be significant of the associated qual- 

Beautiful and Sublime 

ities, they cease also to produce the emotions, either of Sublimity or 

If these conclusions are admitted, it appears necessarily to follow, that 
the Beauty and Sublimity of such objects is to be ascribed not to the 
material qualities themselves, but to the qualities they signify; and of 
consequence, that the qualities of matter are not to be considered as 
sublime or beautiful in themselves, but as being the SIGNS or EXPRESSIONS 
of such qualities, as, by the constitution of our nature, are fitted to pro- 
duce pleasing or interesting emotion. 

The method, then, in examining each class of material properties, 
is the Joint Method of Agreement and Difference (sometimes approx- 
imating very closely to the Method of Difference) 5 and from these 
particular conclusions, the general conclusion is arrived at by the 
Method of Agreement. Despite Alison's disclaimer that his inquiries 
are "only detached observations," 30 it could be argued that he exam- 
ines so many aesthetically significant properties of matter that the 
last generalization is not mere Agreement but approximates a "per- 
fect induction" what is true of each is necessarily true of all. 

One gets the impression, to be sure, that Alison knows a priori 
that matter cannot produce emotion. Such a view he could have im- 
bibed from Reid. He knew Reid 3 Reid had already maintained that 
the beauty and sublimity of matter is derived wholly from mind ; 31 
Alison refers to Reid on this very question in the conclusion of the 
second essay. 32 Such an idealist doctrine, is, at any rate, a major point 
of contrast between Alison and most other British aestheticians. All 
the picturesque school, contemporaries of Alison, argue in one fash- 
ion or another that matter is in itself aesthetically efficient (though 
they do not deny the role of association). Lord Kames, too, had found 
the properties of matter affecting independent of expression. Some 
part of the contradiction between Kames and Alison can be explained 
away by noting that for Alison perception is of qualities, whereas for 
Kames it is of the object as qualified. For Kames, that is, perception 
of the features of the countenance is perception of a face, not of mere 
forms, and the perception is thus immediately connected with other 
attributes. Yet Kames would also find a ceramic tile beautiful in it- 
self, and in this case the object does not include a mind (apart from 
design and use) ; the difference from Alison remains real and irre- 

It is repeatedly asserted that the associational system employed by 
Alison is that of Hartley 5 33 but there is no decisive indication of this 
debt in the essays, either in an explicit acknowledgement or in the 

Archibald Alison 169 

character of the psychology. There is no trace of a physiological basis 
for association 5 Alison's system is wholly ideal. Indeed, it bears a 
far greater resemblance to the system of Hume than to that of Hart- 
ley, and a Humeian could easily reduce Alison's instances of associa- 
tion to contiguity, resemblance, and cause-and-effect. Alison does not 
often appear to have Hume consciously in mind, however, and there 
are a number of points at which his language or thought contrasts 
with that of Hume. 34 Alison's speculation might well be regarded as 
in great measure his own reflection within the general tradition of 
British empiricism after Locke. 

Curiously enough, Alison thought that his analysis of material 
beauties into mental coincided with the doctrine of the "PLATONIC 
SCHOOL," a doctrine traceable ("amid their dark and figurative lan- 
guage" 35 ) in the philosophical systems of the East, and to be found 
in modern times in Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Akenside, Spence, and 
Reid. 36 In his first edition, Alison appeared anxious to qualify the 
doctrine that "Matter is not beautiful in itself, but derives its Beauty 
from the Expression of MIND." 37 Granting, to be sure, that the 
beauty of matter "arises from the Expressions which an intelligent 
Mind connects with, and perceives in it," Alison nonetheless hesitates 
to proclaim that "MATTER is beautiful only, by being expressive of 
the proper Qualities of MIND, and that all the Beauty of the MA- 
TERIAL, as well as of the INTELLECTUAL World, is to be found in 
Mind and its QUALITIES alone. . . ." 38 For there are objects of 
knowledge and taste which are neither qualities of Mind nor quali- 
ties of Matter there are "Qualities which arise from RELATION 5 
from the relation of different bodies or parts of bodies to each other $ 
from the relation of Body to Mind 5 and from the relation of differ- 
ent Qualities of Mind to each other. . . ." 39 Novelty, harmony, fit- 
ness, utility all these are relational. The conclusion which Alison 
finally formulates is, "That the Beauty and Sublimity of the Qualities 
of Matter, arise from their being the Signs or Expressions of such 
Qualities as are fitted by the constitution of our Nature, to produce 
Emotion." 40 In the second edition, however, Alison reformulated 
his doctrine to conform to the "Platonist" position. The various "rela- 
tions" are shown to be merely indirect expressions of mental qualities, 
and the ultimate conclusion is restated accordingly: "that the beauty 
and sublimity which is felt in the various appearances of matter, are 
finally to be ascribed to their expression of mind 5 or to their being, 
either directly or indirectly, the signs of those qualities of mind which 
are fitted, by the constitution of our nature, to affect us with pleas- 

I jo Beautiful and Sublime 

ing or interesting emotion." 41 And Alison adds an elaborate classifica- 
tion, in a scheme evidently derived from Reid, of the ways in which 
the association of matter and mind is effected. The qualities of matter 
may be either 

I. [ACTIVE MIND] immediate signs of 'powers of mind; thus works of 
art are indicative of the various capacities of the artist, and works of na- 
ture may indicate the powers of God; or material properties may be 

II. [PASSIVE MIND] signs of affections of mind, either 

A. directly, as voice, facial expression, and gesture are immediate 
expressions of mental affections, or 

B. indirectly , by means of less universal and less permanent relations, 
such as 

/. experience, through which material properties may become 
the means of producing affections (as with utility and fit- 

2. analogy, or resemblance of the qualities of matter with those 
of mind, 

5. association ("in the proper sense of that term") by means 
of education, fortune, or historical accident, and finally, 

4. individual association to our private affections or remem- 
brances. 42 

In this reinterpretation of the Platonist doctrine (which, Alison con- 
cedes, "when stated in general terms, has somewhat the air of a 
paradox")? anything dialectical in method or mystical in purport is 
replaced by the empirical and literal. 

Alison adopts the usual position that aesthetic experience is con- 
fined to the senses of hearing and (more especially) sight. I shall not 
enter into a recapitulation of the intricate details of his analysis of the 
aesthetics of sound. It is, however, of interest to observe that he 
divides his subject neatly in terms of the kinds of associations in- 
volved. He treats first, simple sounds (in order of increasing com- 
plexity, those produced by inanimate objects, by animals, and by the 
human voice), and then composed sounds (i.e., music). The procedure 
is (I deliberately oversimplify) to show that sounds similar in them- 
selves are productive of very different effects when the vehicle of 
different expressions, and that sounds very different in themselves 
produce similar effects when conveying similar expressions 3 this is, 
of course, the Joint Method of Agreement and Difference working 
both ways simultaneously establishing that the physical sound is not 
the cause of the aesthetic effect, and that the attached associations 
are. Sometimes Alison is able to arrange an experiment conforming 

Archibald Alison 171 

to the Method of Difference 5 thus, a sound which had seemed sublime 
becomes indifferent when an attached association is suddenly stripped 
away (as when we discover that supposed thunder was only the 
rumble of a passing cart). 

But although the effect of any sound depends upon the associa- 
tions which it evokes, it remains true that general rules emerge from 
our experience j it is possible to assert, for instance, that (caeteris 
-paribus} the most sublime sound is loud, grave, lengthened, and in- 
creasing in volume. Such principles guide us in responding to sounds 
with which we have no more particularized associations, and they 
afford the basis for an art of music. In the treatment of music, Alison 
is obliged to skirt a difficulty for his system that by "a peculiar 
law of our nature, there are certain sounds of which the union is 
agreeable, and others of which the union is disagreeable." 43 The 
difficulty is avoided by insisting that the "mechanical pleasure" of 
harmony is qualitatively different from beauty j any complicated 
composition of harmonies, moreover, even if not expressive of any 
passion, is expressive of the skill of composer (and performer), and 
this expression may be the basis of beauty but such beauty, too, is 
distinguishable from the physical pleasure which the harmonies af- 
ford. In general, Alison's remarks on music suffer from inadequacy 
of technical knowledge and the drastic oversimplification which he 
imposes on the subjec5 it might well be possible, however, to de- 
velop on Alison's principles a musical aesthetic which could provide 
a basis for practical criticism. 

In treating of the beauty and sublimity of objects of sight, Alison 
is hampered by no technical inadequacies, and his system is most 
intricately complex. The sense of sight is, of course, vastly predomi- 
nant in our aesthetic experience, a predominance which Alison at- 
tributes to the fact of our seeing "all that assemblage of qualities 
which constitute, in our imaginations, the peculiar nature of such 
objects," and to our discovering by sight most of the relations among 
objects through which associations are transferred. 44 

The beauty of colors presents a problem very like that of the 
beauty of harmonies, for there is a "mechanical pleasure" independent 
of the aesthetic pleasure. "Whether some Colours may not of them- 
selves produce agreeable Sensations, I am not anxious to dispute," 
Alison declares, "but wherever Colours are felt as producing the 
Emotion of Beauty ... it is by means of their Expression, and 
not from any original fitness in the Colours themselves to produce 
this effect. . . ," 45 

172 Beautiful and Sublime 

Form, however, is the chief source of aesthetic experience, con- 
stituting as it does the "essence" of objects. "The most obvious defini- 
tion of FORM," remarks Alison, "is that of Matter, bounded or cir- 
cumscribed by Lines." 46 His treatment of it, accordingly, is almost 
wholly in terms of lines, simple and composed & treatment which 
minimizes the influence of light and shade in defining form. Although 
it is true that chiaroscuro is, in general, less important aesthetically 
than line, this omission is nonetheless a lacuna in the system. The 
aesthetic character of form falls under the heads of natural beauty 
and sublimity, relative beauty, and accidental beauty. The natural 
sublimity of form is found to turn partly on the nature of the objects 
distinguished by the forms (so that forms characterizing objects of 
danger, power, splendor, solemnity, and such are sublime), and 
partly on the magnitude of the forms. Alison's system does not lead 
him to reduce sublimity to one original, and he avoids, in consequence, 
the endless disputes whether sublimity is based on fear, on power, 
on energy, on size, yet without falling into a vapid eclecticism. Lord 
Kames's differentiation of sublimity from grandeur appears when 
Alison notes that magnitude in height expresses elevation or mag- 
nanimity j in depth, danger and terror j in length, vastness or infinity j 
in breadth, stability and duration. The treatment of beauty in the 
same way subsumes all the partial theories which Alison's prede- 
cessors had elaborated that beauty consists in proportion, or in 
variety in uniformity, or utility, or specific norm, or peculiar line. 
The philosophical error of systematic oversimplification and the 
vulgar error of supposing original and objective beauty in each of 
the multitude of beautiful forms are alike skirted 5 beauty is reducible 
to one principle association but that principle is of such a nature 
that the multiplicity of experience can be reconstructed from it. 
Hogarth's prindple, for example, is caught up when Alison notes 
that natural beauty of form arises from the expression of fineness, 
delicacy, and ease, the last of which especially is so often indicated by 
the waving line. But in a series of ingenious inductive experiments, 
Alison shows that the beauty of line depends on expression, not on ser- 
pentinity: that common language refers beauty to expression rather 
than to form as such 5 that when other lines than the serpentine ac- 
quire the same expression, they become beautiful j that when serpen- 
tine lines fail of appropriate expression they are not beautiful. Yet in 
Alison's judgment, Hogarth's is "perhaps of all others the justest 
and best founded principle which has as yet been maintained, in the 
investigation of the natural Beauty of forms." 47 Note, however, that 

/LrctnbaLd /LLtson 173 

what for Hogarth was the operative law of beauty has become for 
Alison an approximate empirical generalization applicable to one 
species of beauty. 

Hutcheson's uniformity in variety also appears transformed in the 
Alisonian aesthetic. When a form is characterized by the composition 
of angular and curvilinear lines (instead of being determined by a 
single line of given character), Alison concedes that the union of uni- 
formity and variety is "agreeable, or is fitted by the constitution of 
our nature to excite an agreeable sensation in the Sense of Sight" 4S 
but this sensation assumes a place in the rank of mechanical pleasures, 
together with harmony and color. The beauty of such composition so 
far as it is natural beauty depends upon associated feeling, greater 
sameness being required by strong emotions and those bordering on 
pain, greater variety by the weaker emotions and those belonging to 
positive pleasure. 49 It follows that Hogarth's rule for practice maxi- 
mum variety is false 5 50 the true rules are: 

1. An expressive form should be selected as the ground of the com- 

2. The variety of parts should be adapted to the nature of this ex- 

5. In independent forms, the beauty is greatest when the character, 

whatever it is, is best preserved. 
4. In dependent forms, the beauty is greatest when the character 

is best adapted to that of the milieu. 51 

The distinction which pervades British aesthetic theory between 
natural and artificial beauty is of course natural to systems the chief 
terms of which apply to both nature and art. Alison makes more of 
this distinction than does any other writer of the century, and by doing 
so is more adequate on the side of art than most of the eighteenth- 
century aestheticians; most principles of criticism can find a niche and 
an explanation in his aesthetic theory. The beauty of art, as far as 
different from that of its natural subject, is termed by Alison "rela- 
tive beauty." Like natural beauty, relative beauty is expressive 5 it ex- 
presses not a content of affections, however, but efficient and final 
causes. We perceive art to be the product of design, and are moved 
by the exhibition it affords of the powers of the mind; and we per- 
ceive it to be adapted to an end, whereby both the -fitness of the adap- 
tation and the utility of the end affect us. 

Alison produces experiments which indicate that the beauty of 
regularity is wholly attributable to the expression of design. This ac- 

174 Beautijul and Sublime 

count of regularity explains very neatly for Alison the course of his- 
torical development of the arts, a history which in turn lends support 
to the theory. The development of each art, as Alison sees it, exhib- 
its three stages: a primitive period in which the novelty of art causes 
stress to be laid on the design which differentiates it obviously from 
nature, so that uniformity is the governing principle; a stage of ma- 
ture development in which variety is increasingly introduced and 
becomes the leading principle of art, which comes to express the pas- 
sions rather than the artist's ingenuity 5 an era of decline in which the 
rivalry of artists and the unregulated desire for novelty in the audi- 
ence make the display of art itself again prevalent over the expres- 
sion of the subject. A just taste requires that expression of design 
should be subject to expression of character j for expression of charac- 
ter is more deeply affecting, more universally felt, and more perma- 
nent, arising from the invariable principles of human nature. 

One of the omitted parts of Alison's plan, it will be recalled, is 
discussion of the enjoyment of painful subjects, especially as repre- 
sented in art. Alison alludes only cursorily to this subject, but it is 
possible to conjecture at the judgment he might have made. It is ap- 
parent that artistry may yield a pleasure which can overbalance pain 
produced by the subject, especially since this pain is weakened by imi- 
tation. There may in addition be "mechanical pleasures" accompany- 
ing the beauty of design which might reconcile us to loss of the 
beauty of character. Yet Alison's principle that beauty of design is of 
an order inferior to beauty of character would necessarily relegate 
works handling painful subjects to an inferior rank. This principle 
is less limiting than might be supposed, however, for Alison's con- 
ception of beauty is so comprehensive that many subjects one might 
casually term "painful" are really beautiful in actuality as well as in 
art 5 melancholy, for instance, is eminently fitted to be the substratum 
of beauty, the physical signs of age are beautiful as representing or 
suggesting a range of moral sentiments and so forth. The artist im- 
itating such subjects, moreover, can point up the beautiful aspects and 
suppress or minimize the ugly, painful, and indifferent, just as he does 
in treating any other subjects. Cases would remain, doubtless, where 
the very facts of imitation and design alone reconcile us to subjects 
with displeasing expressions. The question might be raised, whether 
Alison could adopt Hume's notion of conversion of the passions, that 
the pain of the subject, weakened by removal, produces an excite- 
ment of the mind which can be turned to reinforce the emotion of 
beauty evoked by the artistry. There is nothing incompatible with All- 

Archibald Alison 175 

son's thought in this idea. But the fact that he does not present it 
points to a limitation in his system. This limitation is, that he works 
almost wholly with ideas rather than with emotions 5 emotions are 
constantly referred to as the basis of beauty, to be sure, but there is 
no analytic of emotion in the Essays. I have already noticed that 
Alison passes by the question whether beauty has a peculiar emo- 
tional tone of its own, apart from that of the passion on which it is 
based and the pleasure arising from associative activity. And I think 
that he would not concern himself with the problem of interaction of 
passions, to which the theory of conversion is a partial contribution. 

Relative beauty arises not only from inferences about the efficient 
cause, but from apprehension of the final cause. The complicated prob- 
lems of proportion are brought by Alison under the head of fitness. 
The great principle of Reynolds the central form becomes a spe- 
cial case of proportion: in natural forms in which the fitness of pro- 
portions is not decisively determined either a priori or by experience, 
"the common Proportion is generally conceived to be the fittest, and 
is therefore considered as the most beautiful.'' 53 The most curious 
problems of proportion arise with regard to architecture $ Alison de- 
votes some fifty pages to a minute survey of the external and internal 
proportions of architecture. His evidences are of the usual sort a 
careful discrimination of sentiments, an examination of the customary 
uses of language, and a series of experiments which serve to deter- 
mine the causal relations obtaining among the different variables. It 
may be useful to give a specimen of Alison's conclusions on such a 
topic. He considers the "internal" proportions of architecture those 
of rooms and finds that they depend upon three species of fitness: 
for the superimposed weight, real or apparent 5 for the emotional 
character of the apartment (elegant, magnificent, gay, somber, or 
whatever) $ and for the particular purpose for which the apartment 
is destined. "The two first Expressions constitute the PERMANENT 
Beauty, and the third the ACCIDENTAL Beauty of an apartment." M 
The first is really a negative condition, the second the source of posi- 
tive beauty 5 these two must unite in every beautiful apartment, as 
the first and third must in every convenient apartment. "The most 
perfect Beauty that the Proportions of an apartment can exhibit," 
Alison concludes, "will be when all these Expressions unite 5 or when 
the same relations of dimension which are productive of the Expres- 
sion of sufficiency, agree also in the preservation of Character, and 
in the indication of Use." 5{J 

Alison does not pause over the beauty of utility, merely referring 

Ij6 Beautiful and Sublime 

the reader to Adam Smith's Theory of the Moral Sentiments. And 
he hurries through the accidental beauty of forms, which depends 
upon local, temporary, or personal associations. Since accidental beauty 
is thus limited, it has scant interest for a general theory of taste. It is 
interesting to note in this connection that associationism is often taken 
by its critics and by modern scholars as doing away with the possibil- 
ity of standards in taste. Monk, for instance, argues that by translat- 
ing beauty and sublimity into purely mental emotions, Alison's sys- 
tem shifted attention away from the object of aesthetic experience, 
that if taste is a matter of association of ideas it is a matter of envi- 
ronment and chance and we must fall back on the adage, de gusttbus 
non dis^utandum est> "itself the very negation of absolute beauty and 
absolute sublimity, as well as of a critical code which based its judg- 
ments upon a <prton conceptions of nature and beauty and truth." 56 
But this opinion is not peculiar to Monk. Christopher Hussey tells 
us that Alison "denied absolutely the existence of objective qualities 
inherent in objects, accounting for all emotions by the association of 
ideas aroused in the mind of the spectator. Anything might be beauti- 
ful if it aroused pleasant and therefore beautiful ideas. . . . The 
truth of Alison's theory cannot be denied. Its gradual abandonment 
has been caused, not by any fallacy, but by its devastating effect on 
every standard of beauty. According to it, every man's taste is as 
good as another's." 57 Kallich tries to show that Alison, while a hy- 
percritical neo-classicist, was at the same time a romantic relativist. 58 
And McKenzie urges that given Alison's method, it is impossible to 
get beyond the reflection of individual experience. 59 But it is entirely 
clear that Alison saw no such implication in his theory, which is a 
remarkable circumstance if it be so obvious as the modern scholars 
would have us believe. I think it apparent that Alison would have 
carried out his projected analysis of the standard of taste by making 
ithe obvious distinction between universal associations and those which 
are local, temporary, or personal. The test of truth, Alison remarks 
'(quite incidentally) at one point, "must finally rest upon the uni- 
formity of our sentiments.' 7 60 Again, he observes that only through 
knowledge of philosophical criticism can the artist tell whether his 
creations are "adapted to the accidental prejudices of his Age, or to 
the uniform constitution of the human Mind." 61 The scholars cited 
all veiy much exaggerate the idiosyncratic aspects of personality 5 the 
universal traits of human nature, the common core of experience, 
really bulk far larger. It may be true, as an historical proposition, 
that Alison's views, distorted and quoted out of context, have en- 

Archibald Alison 177 

couraged and justified antinomianism in aesthetics 5 that the doctrine 
properly understood has any such bearing is, I maintain, false. 

The normative criterion, when the different beauties of form can 
not all be preserved together, is always universality and permanence. 
In ornamental forms, beauty of character takes precedence over 
beauty of design, and of course beauty of design over accidental 
beauty. In useful forms, beauty is proportional to expression of char- 
acter, utility being equal 5 when such expression is incompatible with 
use, "that Form will be most universally and most ^permanently 
beautiful, in which the Expression of Utility is most fully pre- 
served" 62 even though the beauty of utility produces a sentiment 
in itself weaker than that evoked by beauty of character. 

Since the sense of sight perceives not only color and form but also 
motion, Alison devotes a chapter to motion, as he had to sound, to 
color, to form. The associations into which he resolves motion are of 
two kinds those associated to the motion as such, and those associ- 
ated to the body moved. The conclusion with regard to the former 
is that both the sublimity and the beauty depend upon the expression 
of power (as opposed to external compulsion), sublimity being the 
effect of great power, beauty of moderate or playful power. "The 
most sublime Motion," Alison maintains, "is that of rapid Motion in 
a straight Line. The most beautiful, is that of slow Motion in a line 
of Curves." 63 In general, however, the expression of the body moved 
predominates over that of the motion itself 5 naturally, the aesthetic 
effect is most perfect when the two expressions coindde. 

The second and subsequent editions of the Essays were embellished 
with an additional chapter of two hundred pages' length, devoted to 
analysis "Of the Beauty of the Human Countenance and Form" 5 the 
burden, as we anticipate, is that the whole beauty and sublimity of 
countenance, form, attitude, and gesture is attributable to expression, 
direct or indirect, of mental traits. The conclusion with regard to the 
countenance (more particularly) is that there are three beauties: that 
of form and color (as previously analyzed), that of direct expression 
of character, and that of direct expression of transient affections of the 
mind; each is perfect when the composition of the face preserves pure 
and unmingled the predominant expression 5 the highest beauty or 
sublimity is attained "when all fall upon the heart of the Spectator 
as one whole, in which Matter, in all its most exquisite forms, is 
only felt as the sign of one great or amiable Character of Mind." 6 * 
With regard to form, the doctrine is that its beauty rises from the 
expression of physical fitness or propriety as a precondition, and posi- 

178 Beautiful and Sublime 

tively from the expression of interesting or affecting characters of 
mind, and that the beauty of composition arises (as in all other cases) 
from the unity of expression. But enough: the analysis is subtle, in- 
tricate, and exhaustive 5 and it fairly represents the power of an asso- 
ciational psychology to deal with the most complex of aesthetic prob- 

Certain problems within this analysis have a bearing on Alison's 
method generally. Instances of four of Mill's canons of induction 
have been cited hitherto ; but there has been no occasion to adduce an 
instance of the Method of Residues, except in the broad sense that 
the whole procedure of the second essay is the Method of Residues. 
(The second essay, that is, proceeds by this method in arguing that 
since the sublimity and beauty of matter are not the result of mate- 
rial properties as such, they must be the consequence of material prop- 
erties as signs of something else.) But it will be illuminating to exam- 
ine the application of this method in the details of the system. By its 
very nature, the Method of Residues will be employed most usually 
in the latter parts of a system, and accordingly we find the most elab- 
orate applications of it in this final chapter. When Alison considers 
the aesthetic character of the variable colors of the countenance, he 
lays it down that the beauty of color must here arise from either an 
original beauty in the colors themselves, or some law of our nature 
by which such colors appearing in the countenance immediately pro- 
duce the emotion of beauty, or their significance to us of certain quali- 
ties capable of producing pleasing or interesting emotions. Now, the 
first of these alternatives has been already ruled out in the chapter 
on color 5 no color is originally beautiful (though some may yield a 
mechanical pleasure). The second alternative is now shown to be un- 
tenable, the consequences of the hypothesis are drawn out and found 
to be in contradiction with experience. The Method of Residues now 
points to the third alternative; and evidence drawn up inductively 
under several heads is marshalled in confirmation of this inference 
and in explication of the particular qualities signified by the variable 
colors of the countenance. 

It is important to observe especially as a point of contrast with 
Lord Kames that Alison never begs the question whether the knowl- 
edge of the expressions of matter is implanted in us by nature or 
arises through experience. It is a question which, for aesthetics, need 
not be settled, provided that the -fact of the expression be clear. But 
one feels more certain of the fact itself when its ground is known 5 
and it is, moreover, of interest to determine the causes of this phe- 

Archibald Alison 179 

nomenon. The chapter now under consideration affords several vivid 
illustrations of Alison's cautious procedure. In treating of interpre- 
tation of the permanent coloring of the countenance, 65 of the expres- 
sion of the features, 66 and of the figure, 67 Alison endeavors to iso- 
late cursorily the experiences underlying the associations. He had 
done the same much earlier in discussing the expressive power of 
tempo in music. 68 On other occasions, he leaves the issue unresolved 5 
he does not attempt to determine why we always attribute regularity 
to design, 69 why motion with no visible cause suggests volition, 70 or 
how we come to interpret the "language" of gesture and attitude. 71 
But the tendency of Alison's system to explain such phenomena, to 
reduce the number of inexplicable principles in human nature, is a 
great advance in philosophic method. 

The chapter on the human face and form involves Alison in an- 
other problem, substantive rather than methodological. Throughout 
the century, following a tradition inherited from continental art crit- 
ics, aestheticians attempted in a variety of ways to assimilate that 
elusive quality, grace, to a variety of systems. Alison, too, feels obliged 
to treat of grace, which appears in his system (as elsewhere) as a 
kind of finishing touch to beauty and/or sublimity. It is found in the 
positions and motions of the human figure, in the movements of some 
animals, and (by personification) even in insensitive objects 5 and it is 
the chief object of painting and sculpture. Grace is "different from 
Beauty, though nearly allied to it," 72 being distinguished by an emo- 
tion of respect and admiration apart from the nexus of feelings 
touched by simple beauty or sublimity. It appears to consist in an ex- 
pression, ordinarily superimposed upon expression of emotion, of 
self-command, "of that self-possession which includes in our belief, 
both the presence of a lofty standard of character and conduct, and 
of the habitual government of itself by this high principle." 73 

Few eighteenth-century aestheticians and certainly not a divine 
could treat of beauty and sublimity without exhibiting the final causes 
served by such a constitution of our nature. Curiosity is not satisfied 
in scientific inquiry, Alison tells us, "until it terminates in the discov- 
ery, not only of design, but of benevolent design: and the great ad- 
vantage . . . which man derives from inquiry into the laws of his 
own mind, is much less in the addition which it gives to his own 
power or wisdom, than in the evidence which it affords him of the 
wisdom with which his constitution is framed, and the magnificent 
purposes for which it is formed." 74 Despite this asseveration, how- 
ever, it is apparent that this inquiry into final causes is no necessary 

180 Beautiful and Sublime 

part of the system. For Addison, for Lord Kames, final causes were a 
kind of particular providence, to be adduced as deus ex machina 
whenever efficient causes proved esoteric ; for Alison, final causes 
are like the providence of a deist things would go on quite as well 
without them. 

These purposes of the Creator which Alison divines include the 
general and impartial dispersion of happiness (which would be arbi- 
trarily and capriciously restricted if beauty were "objective") and 
the perpetual encouragement of the mechanic and liberal arts (which 
would soon become static if an "objective" beauty were once at- 
tained). But more important: since the emotions of taste are blended 
ith moral sentiment, the pleasures of taste conduce to moral im- 
rovement. The moral influence of our appreciation of external na- 
ire is described in language as ardent as that of Wordsworth: 

While the objects of the material world are made to attract our infant 
eyes, there are latent ties by which they reach our hearts; and wherever 
they afford us delight, they are always the signs or expressions of higher 
qualities, by which our moral sensibilities are called forth. It may not 
be our fortune, perhaps, to be born amid its nobler scenes. But, wander 
where we will, trees wave, rivers flow, mountains ascend, clouds darken, 
or winds animate the face of Heaven; and over the whole scenery, the 
sun sheds the cheerfulness of his morning 1 , the splendour of his noon-day, 
or the tenderness of his evening light. There is not one of these features 
of scenery which is not fitted to awaken us to moral emotion; to lead us, 
when once the key of our imagination is struck, to trains o fascinating 
and of endless imagery; and in the indulgence of them to make our 
bosoms either glow with conceptions of mental excellence, or melt in the 
dreams of moral good. Even upon the man of the most uncultivated taste, 
the scenes of nature have some inexplicable charm: there is not a chord 
perhaps of the human heart which may not be wakened by their influ- 
ence ; and I believe there is no man of genuine taste, who has not often 
felt, in the lone majesty of nature, some unseen spirit to dwell, which, 
in his happier hours, touched, as if with magic hand, all the springs of 
his moral sensibility, and rekindled in his heart those original conceptions 
of the moral or intellectual excellence of his nature, which it is the 
tendency of the vulgar pursuits of life to diminish, if not altogether to 
destroy. 75 

But beyond all else, "nature, in all its aspects around us, ought only 
to be felt as signs of ... [the Creator's] providence, and as con- 
ducting us, by the universal language of these signs, to the throne of 
the DEITY." 76 

Archibald Alison 181 

Such views as these lead to the final question of this survey of the 
Alisonian aesthetic: What is the precise connection between ethics 
and aesthetics in this system? Are they even distinguishable disci- 
plines dealing with distinct subject matters? Alison is a remarkably 
systematic writer, and he seems consistently to reduce aesthetic phe- 
nomena to ethical. This is sufficiently obvious from the whole of the 
second essay ; but particular citations may give suitable emphasis to 
the point. Thus, after demonstrating that beauty is found in the most 
opposite compositions of the countenance (and that, consequently, no 
physical law governs this beauty), Alison observes that "the union 
of every feature and colour has been experienced as beautiful, when 
it was felt as expressive of amiable or interesting sentiment j and . . . 
the only limit to the Beauty of the Human Countenance, is the 
limit which separates Vice from Virtue j which separates the disposi- 
tions or affections we approve, from those which we disapprove or 
despise." 77 

Yet the aesthetic phenomena do not become merely and purely 
ethical. For our sense of moral judgment pronounces directly and 
simply, without dependence on trains of associated imagery. Aes- 
thetic feelings, it is true, fall within the same genus as moral senti- 
ments j both are evaluative judgments relating one immediately, 
the other mediately through the first to the passions and faculties 
of the mind. But aesthetic feelings are differentiated from simple 
moral feelings by the peculiar mode of association which it was the 
function of the first essay to describe. When Alison argues that if 
there were an original beauty in the countenance, "the emotion of 
Beauty would be a simple and unassociated sentiment 3 and . . . 
language everywhere would have conveyed it with the same unity 
and accuracy, as it does the sentiments of right or wrong, of justice or 
injustice," 7S he is only stating explicitly a distinction which is implicit 
throughout the Essays on Taste. 


Beautiful, Sublime, 



The Picturesque 

WORD Picturesque, as applied to the antiquities of Eng- 
lish cities/ 3 declared the noted antiquary John Britton early 
in the nineteenth century, ". . . will be clearly recognised and un- 
derstood by readers who are familiar with the works of Gilpin, 
Alison, Price, and Knight. It has become not only popular in English 
literature, but as definite and descriptive as the terms grand, beauti- 
ful, sublime, romantic, and other similar adjectives. . . . [In] 
speaking, or writing, about scenery and buildings, it is a term of es- 
sential and paramount import." x 

This word "picturesque" had been naturalized in England for half 
a century before it was used as a term in theoretical aesthetic dis- 
cussion. As early as 1685, William Aglionby had said of free and 
natural execution in painting, "This the Italians call working A la 
pittoresk, that is boldly" 2 a usage strikingly like that of the pic- 
turesque school a century later. By 1705, Steele could employ the 
word in dramatic dialogue in the sense "after the manner of paint- 
ers," though the manner in question was allegorical and academic, 
hardly that of which writers of the picturesque school think. Pope 
praised two lines of Phillips for being "what the French call very 
picturesque^ - 3 and notes to his Iliad pronounce two Homeric descrip- 
tions picturesque. 3 By mid-century the word was becoming a stock 
epithet in description and criticism. And although "picturesque" was 
never included in Johnson's dictionary, Johnson did employ it, in 
three instances at least, to define other words. 4 

Details of the etymology are mooted, and the etymologies con- 
tended for are usually employed to bolster theories of the pictur- 
esque j but there is of course no doubt of the Romance origin. None- 
theless, there is reason to suppose that the Dutch "schilderachtig" 
antedated development of the Italian and French synonym. Such a 


1 86 Beautiful ', Sublime, and Picturesque 

Dutch art critic of the early seventeenth century as Carel van Mander 
employed "schilderachtig"5 5 and the word was taken into German 
half a century later by Joachim von Sandrart. Sandrart applies it, 
much in the fashion of Uvedale Price, to the painting of Rembrandt: 

Er hat aber wenig antiche Poetische Gedichte, alludien oder seltsame 
Historian, sondern meistens einfaltige und nicht in sonderbares Nach- 
sinnen lauffende, ihme wohlgefallige und schilderachtige (wie sie die 
Niderlander nennen) Sachen gemahlet, die doch voller aus der Natur 
herausgesuchter Artigkeiten waren. 6 

It is possible that the concept has its origin in the Netherlands 5 but 
such speculation is at present too conjectural to pursue. 

The spelling of "picturesque" is as variable as its meaning. Beside 
the usual form one finds "pittoresk," "pittoresque," "pictoresque," 
"picteresque," "picturesk," and "peinturesque." "Pittoresque," like 
Aglionby's "pittoresk," is early, reflects the Italian original and is, 
as we shall see, productive of much speculation. "Pictoresque" and 
the exceptional "picteresque" display equally clearly in their etymol- 
ogy a reference to the painter. "Picturesk" is a late effort at Angli- 
cizing "picturesque" 5 "peinturesque," also a rather late form, re- 
flects (perhaps was invented to accord with) a different view of the 
etymology a reference to the art rather than the artist. 7 

In the early decades of the eighteenth century, "picturesque" 
usually bore one of two meanings: when applied to literary style, it 
meant "vivid" or "graphic," by an obvious metaphor 5 when applied 
to scenes in nature, and sometimes when applied to imitations of 
these on canvas or in words, it meant "eminently suitable for pictorial 
representation," as affording a well-composed picture, with suitably 
varied and harmonized form, colors, and lights. The first of these 
meanings became (and in some measure still is) a commonplace in 
the discussion of rhetoric and poetry 5 Blair (for instance) repeatedly 
praises epithets, figures, and descriptions as "picturesque," as conjuring 
up distinct and forcible images. But in Blair the two meanings I have 
discriminated are rarely separate; he speaks of "poetical painting," 
and declares that "a good Poet ought to give us such a landscape, as 
a painter could copy after." 8 Writers less concerned with literature 
stress the pictorial sense of "picturesque," and it was this sense which 
was destined to become predominant and fashionable. 

After the publication of "Estimate" Brown's letter on Keswick 
(1767) and Young's tours (1768-71), the picturesque insinuated it- 
self more widely into popular literature, and to illustrate its use in 

The Picturesque 187 

this period, just before Gilpin's picturesque travels set a standard for 
picturesque taste, I shall discuss briefly the picturesque in Smollett's 
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker y first published in 1771. The 
literary use of "picturesque" "vivid" appears as Matthew Bramble 
claims for Commissary Smollett's "Ode to Leven Water" the merit 
of being "at least picturesque and accurately descriptive." And the 
plastic sense "pictorial" appears frequently. Jerry Melford finds 
the scene of Clinker admonishing the felons in their chains, the 
grouping and expression, picturesque fit for a Raphael. And Lisma- 
hago proves to be a highly picturesque appendage. His horror is "di- 
vertingly picturesque" when, acting Pierrot, he is chased by the skel- 
eton. And when he escapes from the fire at Sir Thomas Bulford's 
in his nightshirt, Jerry Melford reports the scene as a subject for 
painting: "The rueful aspect of the lieutenant in his shirt, with a 
quilted night-cap fastened under his chin, and his long lank limbs 
and posteriors exposed to the wind, made a very picturesque appear- 
ance, when illuminated by the links and torches which the servants 
held up to light him in his descent." Sir Thomas cries out, "O che 
roba! O, what a subject! O, what caricatural O, for a Rosa, a 
Rembrandt, a Schalken! Zooks, I'll give a hundred guineas to have 
it painted what a fine descent from the cross, or ascent to the gal- 
lows! what lights and shadows! what a group below! what expres- 
sion above! what an aspect!" 9 Sir Thomas is eccentric in his humor 
but not in his sense of the picturesque, for serious writers too apply the 
term to comic scenes: Malone remarks of an early caricatura of 
Reynolds that "it was a kind of picturesque travesty of Raffaelle's 

These examples have all referred to history or to genre painting, 
or to their comic equivalents 5 but this is not the peculiar locus of the 
picturesque, for although the picturesque point of view had on its 
first introduction into England a strong tie with history painting, 
landscape soon became the field for picturesque vision. And Hum- 
phry Clinker abounds with appreciations of (especially Scottish) 
scenery. Matthew Bramble often finds sublimity 5 Jerry is not im- 
pressed so deeply, yet he thinks that the Orkneys and Hebrides make 
a "picturesque and romantic" view. Here picturesque vision has less 
direct connection with painting j and there is one passage which pre- 
figures satirically the later and more sophisticated sense of "pictur- 
esque" : Lydia Melford thinks the meretricious and miscellaneous ob- 
jects at Vauxhall "picturesque and striking." Even to an ingenue, 
Vauxhall would not, I think, have seemed "like a picture" but strik- 

Beautijul, Sublime, and Picturesque 

ing it certainly was, and "striking" is a fair synonym for some of the 
applications of "picturesque" after that term was in some measure 
divorced from especial connection with painting. 

But the popular uses of the word which I have illustrated were 
soon supplemented. Once "picturesque" became a part of technical 
aesthetic vocabulary, it was inevitable that, while ascertained from 
the vagueness of popular use, it would acquire the systematic ambigu- 
ity of other philosophical terms. As the picturesque was fitted into a 
variety of systems of aesthetics, the term "picturesque" acquired 
a corresponding variety of meanings. 

It is this variety which makes a history of the picturesque the 
term or the character difficult of accomplishment. There are, as my 
introductory chapter has indicated, three ways in which such an ac- 
count can be managed. It can be handled as a philological inquiry, 
with the influence of philosophical and methodological principles 
minimized 5 it can be composed dialectically, previous theories of the 
picturesque being examined in the light of a schematism, a superior 
theory, provided by the historian ; finally, a closely literal survey of 
the arguments of conflicting theoreticians can be written, with atten- 
tion directed upon philosophical issues where these are important, but 
without the superimposition of a more comprehensive theory of the 
analyst upon the theories which are his subject. The first of these 
modes tends to ignore the intellectual causes determining the propo- 
sitions enunciated by theorists $ the second implicitly impugns the in- 
tegrity and adequacy of the theories j and the third (which is here 
attempted) has its defect too for, since discussion of the picturesque, 
like that of other philosophical issues, is never brought to a close, the 
problems never settled, the differences never reconciled, it is difficult 
to give either an order or a termination to the account of the discus- 
sion. This study terminates at 1810, just at the time when picturesque 
attitudes had become generally adopted and when practical applica- 
tions of the picturesque were being most fully developed $ the theory 
and practice of the nineteenth century and modern times, as the pic- 
turesque gradually declined in public and critical favor, are wholly 
omitted, and so is the renaissance of the picturesque in very recent 

But before entering upon my account, it may be useful to describe 
briefly instances of philological and dialectical histories of the pictur- 
esque. The most ambitious attempt to settle this philosophic problem 
by examination of language is that of Robert Bridges in one of his 
Society for Pure English tracts entitled "Pictorial. Picturesque. RQ- 

The Picturesque 189 

mantic. Grotesque. Classical." Bridges does not admit intrusion of 
philosophic principles into the eighteenth-century usage of "pictur- 
esque" 5 he argues, in fact, that since the word "pictorial" did not 
come into general use before iSoo, 11 the word "picturesque" must 
have been appropriated to the meaning which "pictorial" has for vis. 
How this can be true of writers like Uvedale Price, who aim to di- 
vorce the term from its reference to pictorial representation, Bridges 
does not explain. The exclusion of all concern with ideas in the dis- 
cussion of terms is made still more emphatic by the declaration that 
"What it was the fashion in his [Gilpin's] day to deem essentially 
pictorial is a minor question." 12 Now, however, with both "pictorial" 
and "picturesque" ready to hand, Bridges considers that we must 
differentiate their meanings (even, I suppose, if we subscribe to a 
theory which calls for their identification). To accomplish this differ- 
entiation, Bridges imports HegePs classification of art as Symbolic, 
Classical, or Romantic, each of which genera contains three analogous 
species. From this classification, and from Ruskin's account of the 
picturesque school in England, "the right use of the words -pictorial 
and 'picturesque may be deduced." All painting is Romantic 5 but "the 
term picturesque has lost its generic meaning, and has its proper defi- 
nition in denoting an ultra-romantic school which has its own propri- 
eties and excesses [i.e., "picturesque" = romantic-Romantic] . The 
word pictorial should therefore come to its own, to designate Hegel's 
mid-species, which he styles classical-Romantic, denoting such 'forms' 
as have been commonly recognized by all painters as suitable and ef- 
fective in their art." 13 

Now despite the use of two philosophical aestheticians in arriving 
at these definitions, this is clearly a linguistic argument. For nothing 
of the philosophical principles or method of analysis of either Hegel 
or Ruskin is taken over, only a schematism of categories, stripped of 
all but the most general connotations. It is apparent that the definition 
of Bridges is of no use precisely in all those cases where accurate 
definition should be of most use in systematic and technical discus- 
sions. Even if these pseudo-Hegelian meanings be taken over for pop- 
ular conversational use, how can conversational use be set up as a 
norm for philosophy or science to follow? And is it true that even in 
everyday parlance we always use "picturesque," or should always 
use it, in this one sense alone? 

In sharp contrast to this verbal treatment of the problem is the 
discussion of Christopher Hussey in The Picturesque: Studies in a 
Point of View, the very title of which implies an examination of ideas 

I go Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

rather than of words. This book is universally acknowledged and I 
acquiesce in the judgment to be the most valuable study of the 
topic. It displays taste, scholarship, and wit j but Hussey has his own 
"point of view" which sometimes throws the picturesque theorists 
into a false perspective. Hussey sees the picturesque as "a long phase 
in the aesthetic relation of man to nature," a phase in which, through 
the pictorial appreciation of nature, "poetry, painting, gardening, ar- 
chitecture, and the art of travel may be said to have been fused into 
the single 'art of landscape. 5 The combination might be called 'the 
Picturesque.' " The picturesque phase was in the case of each art a 
transition from classicism to romanticism, and "occurred at the point 
when an art shifted its appeal from the reason to the imagination." 
Classic art addresses the reason, romantic art the imagination, and 
"the picturesque interregnum between classic and romantic art was 
necessary in order to enable the imagination to form the habit of 
feeling through the eyes. Pictures were in each case taken as the 
guide for how to see, because painting is the art of seeing . . . [but] 
as soon as the imagination had absorbed what painting had to teach 
it, it could feel for itself, and the intermediate process . . . could be 
dropped." Picturesque art thus "accentuated visual qualities at the 
expense of rational ones on the one hand, and of associated ideas on 
the other. . . . Picturesque art is imperfect art, but not necessarily 
bad art." 14 Imperfect as it is, picturesque art is the first step towards 
abstract aesthetic values j and it was natural that the first step should 
be the appreciation of visual qualities in nature through education of 
the eye to recognize qualities which painters had previously isolated. 
"Each art passed through a phase of imitating painting before devel- 
oping into the romantic phase that came after, when the eye and the 
imagination had learnt to work for themselves. The period of imita- 
tion is the picturesque period." 15 This is history arranged in accord- 
ance with a scheme of dialectical contraries: classic romantic, ra- 
tional imaginative, objective subjective, and so forth. The analy- 
sis is neat, the progression smooth 5 but it appears to me to involve 
distortion of many of the data, and to prejudge the merits of the 
picturesque point of view, to underrate its artists and belittle its the- 

Wylie Sypher has set the picturesque in a different dialectical 
framework. Drawing from all the arts, but basing his distinctions 
primarily upon painting, Sypher finds that the "suavity and gaiety" of 
Burkeian beauty identify it with the rococo, and that "sublimity is 
a tremor, felt at a distance, from the monstrous baroque agitation of 

The Picturesque igi 

Michelangelo or Milton." Temperamentally, "the XVIII Century 
found it embarrassing to surrender so recklessly, and thus sought in 
the picturesque, a sentimentalized sublimity, the excitement of the 
sublime without its abandon. The picturesque was a characteristic 
XVIII Century appropriation of the baroque." 16 In Sypher's anal- 
ysis, however, both sublime and picturesque are more shallow than 
the baroque from which they derive, for they do not reflect "internal 
or otherwise inherent tensions. In consequence, no drama is available 
to either picturesque or sublime (which are lyric) . . . both are akin 
to pathos rather than to tragedy. . . ." 17 Sypher's account is highly 
abstract, and finds little enough support in the concrete data, for not 
only do none of the theorists of the picturesque seem conscious of the 
motives ascribed to them, but the picturesque has, in its origins, a more 
evident connection with beauty than with sublimity. Sypher's analy- 
sis, even more than Hussey's, makes the entire picturesque movement 
trivial and inferior. One purpose of this study will be to view the 
picturesque, and the writers on the picturesque, without pejorative 
implication and without refraction through an alien theory, to restore 
the theories of the picturesque to some measure of philosophic re- 


William Qilpin 

PICTURESQUE" was rescued from the indeterminacy of fashion 
by William Gilpin, who made it the key term of the new aesthetic 
attitude of which he was himself the earliest exponent. The "venerable 
founder and master of the picturesque school," Gilpin exerted a pro- 
found and lasting influence upon the taste not only of England but of 
Europe, though his analysis of the picturesque was soon superseded 
by the more subtle and philosophical studies of Uvedale Price and 
Payne Knight. 1 

In the youthful and anonymous Dialogue at Stow (i748), 2 Gilpin 
uses the term "picturesque" conventionally: the picturesque is that 
which is suited to pictorial representation. There is already apparent, 
however, the tendency to consider rough and irregular scenes of na- 
ture especially picturesque, to find in landscape the peculiar locus of 
the picturesque. In the later and more widely influential Essay on 
Prints? to be sure, the subject itself demanded that Gilpin avoid the 
appropriation of the picturesque to wild and intricate scenes exclu- 
sively, and the term is employed, accordingly, in its more general 
acceptation. The definition given in the preliminary "Explanation of 
Terms" is simply this: "a term expressive of that peculiar kind of 
beauty, which is agreeable in a picture." 4 The entire Essay on Prints 
is implicitly a discussion of picturesque beauty in this traditional sense, 
in its various aspects of composition, lighting, drawing, expression, 
execution, and so forth. The word, "picturesque," however, is very 
sparingly employed. The landscapes of Ridinger are praised for be- 
ing "picturesque and romantic," a phrase applied also to the land- 
scapes of Sadler 5 and this is the use of the word which Gilpin was to 
make conventional. But when Ridinger's scenes of hunting are said 
to be didactic and "least picturesque of any of his works," the applica- 
tion is the older and broader suitable for a picture. 


William, Gilfin 193 

It was in Gilpin's picturesque travels, which began to appear in 
1782, that the picturesque of roughness and intricacy was defined and 
popularized 5 the extension of the term was pretty well fixed by Gil- 
pin, though philosophical dispute over its intension was later to en- 
gross aestheticians, gardeners, painters, and amateurs. The most the- 
oretical of these works of Gilpin is his Three Essays: On Picturesque 
Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and On Sketching Landscape: to 
Which is Added a Poem, On Landscape Painting? The general 
principles developed in these essays are reduced to principles of land- 
scape in the Remarks on Forest Scenery, and Other Woodland Views, 
Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty Illustrated by the Scenes of 
New Forest in Hampshire. In Three Books. 6 This work, then, is of 
an intermediate degree of abstraction, and the middle principles de- 
vised in it are applied in the six volumes of tours all which bear 
titles of the form, Observations [upon some fart of Great Britain] 
Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty. 7 All of these volumes, illus- 
trated by Gilpm's fine aquatints, were immensely popular and greatly 
affected British taste in natural and artificial scenery. 

In this study, however, attention must be confined to the theoreti- 
cal essays, in which, unhappily, Gilpin is least impressive. The first 
of the Three Essays, "On Picturesque Beauty," attempts to dispel the 
confusion (which all philosophers lament, and which each claims the 
honor of terminating) about the nature of beauty: "Disputes about 
beauty/ 3 Gilpin declares, "might perhaps be involved in less confu- 
sion, if a distinction were established, which certainly exists, between 
such objects as are beautiful [merely], and such as are picturesque 
between those, which please the eye in their natural state*, and those, 
which please from some quality, capable of being illustrated by 
fainting" 8 Gilpin is careful to emphasize that the picturesque is a 
species of beauty, not a distinct character, and in his dedicatory letter 
defends himself against the charge of "supposing, all beauty to con- 
sist in pcturesque beauty and the face of nature to be examined only 
by the rules of fainting" 9 The pleasures of imagination are various, 
and the picturesque is only one additional mode. The problem of 
Gilpin's essay is to define the causes of that mode: "What is that 
quality in objects, which particularly marks them as picturesque?" 10 

When Gilpin remarks that "in examining the real object, we shall 
find, one source of beauty arises from that species of elegance, which 
we call smoothness, or neatness,"*' 1 the phrase, "the real object? 
suggests that his theory deals not with art itself but with nature con- 
sidered as a subject for art 5 and this is, indeed, an obvious conse- 

194 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

quence of the general sense Gilpin assigns to the "picturesque." But 
in picturesque representation, neatness and smoothness, "instead of 
being picturesque, in reality strip the object, in which they reside, of 
all pretensions to picturesque beauty."* 2 In fact, Gilpin continues, 
"roughness forms the most essential point of difference between the 
beautiful, and the picturesque; as it seems to be that particular qual- 
ity, which makes objects chiefly pleasing in painting. I use the gen- 
eral term roughness; but properly speaking roughness relates only 
to the surfaces of bodies: when we speak of their delineation, we use 
the word ruggedness. Both ideas however equally enter into the pic- 
turesque 5 and both are observable in the smaller, as well as in the 
larger parts of nature. . . ." 1S A quick induction supports this prin- 
ciple: the painter prefers ruins to perfect architecture, an overgrown 
cart track to a finished garden, an aged face with dishevelled locks 
to the smoother beauty of youth, a human figure in action to one in 
repose, a cart horse or an ass to a polished Arabian. (Sydney Smith 
summed up the difference between beautiful and picturesque in re- 
marking that "the Vicar's horse is beautiful, the Curate's pctur- 
esque"**) Price and others urge that the induction is imperfect j 
but Gilpin casts about anxiously to discover reasons for what he con- 
ceives to be this general preference. 

The painter's love of the shaggy stems partly from the encourage- 
ment a rough subject gives to a sketchy facility of execution. It is not 
only that a rougher touch is easier to master than a smoother and 
more elegant style Gilpin does not stress this point, which is not 
likely to appeal to the spectator expecting skill in the artist 3 rather, 
"a free, bold touch is in itself pleasing." 15 Gilpin gives no reason for 
this effect, though it is pretty clear that associations with ideas of un- 
constrained ease underlie it. But "it is not merely for the sake of his 
execution, that the painter prefers rough objects to smooth. The very 
essence of his art requires it." 16 Picturesque composition, in the first 
place, "consists in uniting in one whole a variety of parts 5 and these 
parts can only be obtained from rough objects." 17 Rough objects, 
again, alone yield what Gilpin terms "effect of light and shade" 
massed and graduated lights and shades, with richness of minute var- 
iations, and "catching lights" on prominences. In coloring, too, 
roughness affords greater variation. In sum, roughness is more vari- 
ous 5 the taste for the picturesque is a taste for a greater measure of 
complexity and intricacy than either beautiful or sublime affords. Gil- 
pin supports his reasons with an experiment. One of his aquatints 
exhibits "a smooth knoll coining forward on one side, intersected by 

William Gilfin 195 

a smooth knoll on the other; with a smooth plain perhaps in the mid- 
dle, and a smooth mountain in the distance," 18 while a companion 
aquatint shows the same general scene broken into irregular and 
jutting forms, marked by rugged rocks, clothed with shaggy boskage, 
and enlivened by two figures and a ruined castle. This experiment 
can not, however, quite pretend to be an instance of the Method of 
Difference: the second print is not merely rougher; it brings with it 
all the interest of complicated imitation and all the charms of mani- 
fold associations. Gilpin passes over the crucial question, how much 
of the effect is to be attributed to these causes? 

He does, however, pause to explain away apparent exceptions to 
the principle that roughness is the ideal subject for art. Those really 
smooth objects which may have a good effect in a picture, he argues, 
are apparently rough or highly varied: the lake seems rough from 
the broken light on its surface undulations, or from the reflection of' 1 
rough objects; the horse's smooth coat displays the play of muscle; 
beneath ; the smoothness of plumage is only the ground for its break- 
ing coloration 5 the polish of the column only displays the irregular- 
ity of the veining. Or (if the preceding does not convince) smooth- 
ness may be picturesque by contrast, adding piquancy to roughness. 
These explanations are specious, but it is clear that there is a difficulty, 
and that it has not been met so adequately as to remove all doubt; 
Price was subsequently to direct a part of his criticism of Gilpin to 
this vulnerable point. 

This difficulty set aside, however, Gilpin seems to have solved 
his problem. But instead, he resumes the analysis: "Having thus from 
a variety of examples endeavoured to shew, that roughness either 
red, or affiarent, forms an essential difference between the beautifal, 
and the picturesque; it may be expected, that we should point out 
the reason of this difference. It is obvious enough, why the painter 
prefers rough objects to smooth: but it is not so obvious, why the 
quality of roughness should make an essential diference between ob- 
jects of beauty, and objects suited to artificial representation" 19 This 
is a subtle distinction. The question is, why do we come to approve 
in nature of things which would look well in pictures? Implicit in 
the very question is the recognition that our liking for the real ob- 
jects is not merely from an association with painting, but has an in- 
dependent basis (although, perhaps, a basis so concealed and ob- 
scured that a knowledge of painting is usually requisite to cultivate 
the natural aptitude). If this is Gilpin's point, he should be led here 
into the kind of inquiry in which Price later engaged; if it is not, his 

! 9 6 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

inquiry should have terminated with the determination of the rea- 
sons why the rough and rugged pleases in painting. 

In any event, Gilpin fails to discover the natural basis of the "es- 
sential difference" between objects of natural beauty and those suited 
to artificial representation. Four hypotheses are tested and rejected: 
(j) That "the picturesque eye abhors art 5 and delights solely in na- 
ture: and that as art abounds with regularity, which is only another 
name for smoothness-, and the images of nature with irregularity, 
which is only another name for roughness, we have here a solution 
of our question." 20 But art is not invariably regular j and many art 
objects drapery, shipping, ruined castles, et cetera are excellent 
subjects in painting. (2) That the picturesque is based upon the 
"ha-ppy union of simplicity and variety, to which the rough ideas es- 
sentially contribute." 21 But the beautiful in general equally with 
that species of its denominated picturesque is characterized by this 
happy union. (5) That the imitative art of painting can more readily 
imitate rough objects. This, however, is false in fact. (Gilpin had, to 
be sure, asserted something like this in treating facility of execution; 
the present point, however, concerns -fidelity, not mechanical facility, 
of imitation.) (4) That painting is not strictly imitative, but decep- 
tive $ that the rough touches of the painter permit concealment of 
the deception 5 and that rough objects permit rough touches. But 
rough objects may be executed by smooth touches and these last are 
then picturesque. 

It is interesting to observe that, the second excepted, these con- 
jectures are drawn from considerations involving art. Now, the 
question to which they are addressed has meaning only if we sup- 
pose that the reason of the essential difference of picturesque and 
beautiful is found in nature and not in art 5 for, if the delight in 
the picturesque is based only on some kind of association with art, the 
reasons already given for the painter's preference of it are sufficient, 
and no problem exists. Gilpin's conjectures, then, are an ignoratio 
elenchi; the answer to the question must be found elsewhere, per- 
haps in the directions taken by Price, or Knight, or Alison, or Stew- 
art. Thwarted by his methodological error, Gilpin throws up his 
hands in despair: "Thus foiled, should we in the true spirit of in- 
quiry, persist} or honestly give up the cause, and own we cannot 
search out the source of this difference? I am afraid this is the truth, 
whatever airs of dogmatizing we may assume. Inquiries into 'prin- 
ciples rarely end in satisfaction. Could we even gain satisfaction in 
our present question, new doubts would arise. The very first prin- 

William Gilpin 197 

ciples of our art would be questioned. . . . We should be asked, 
What is beauty? What is taste?" 22 To clinch his argument, Gilpin 
pretends to examine the debates of the learned on taste 5 he hears 
authors contend for the cultivation of innate talents, for utility, com- 
mon sense, a special sense of beauty, proportion generally, and partic- 
ular canons of proportion. "Thus," he concludes, "in our inquiries 
into first frincifles ) we go on without end, and without satisfaction. 
The human understanding is unequal to the search. In philosophy 
we inquire for them in vain in physics in metaphysics in morals. 
Even in the polite arts, where the subject, one should imagine, is less 
recondite, the inquiry, we find, is equally vague. We are puzzled, 
and bewildered 5 but not informed, all is uncertainty 5 a strife of 
words. . . ." 23 

Such a disclaimer can not be expected to satisfy the pride of philoso- 
phers 3 Gilpin leaves an opening here for re-examination of the en- 
tire question. Before advancing to such re-examinations, however, 
I shall describe briefly the other essays of the present volume. Baffled 
in his search for causes, Gilpin turns, in the second essay, "On Pic- 
turesque Travel," to closer examination of the effects. Picturesque 
travel has for its object natural and artificial beauty of every kind, 
but especially, of course, the picturesque. 2 * The distinction between 
beauty and sublimity might be expected to afford a corresponding 
division of the picturesque 5 but since Gilpin has defined "picturesque" 
to denote "such objects, as are frofer subjects for painting" 25 it 
must be granted that "sublimity alone cannot make an object 'pic- 
turesque" 26 Mere vastness, the merely terrific, does not lend itself 
to depiction 5 only an admixture of the beautiful can render sublimity 
picturesque. Granted this proviso, Gilpin is ready to admit the sublime, 
too, as an object of picturesque travel, and even descants on scenes of 
"pcturesque horror."^ The third member of Addison's triad, the 
novel, is rarely picturesque 5 the picturesque eye is not attracted to 
the curious and fantastic, but "is fond of the simplicity of nature 5 
and sees most beauty in her most usual forms." 2S These usual forms 
are not, however, insipid 5 the strongly marked, the "characteristic," 
is most picturesque. So essential, indeed, is the characteristic to the 
picturesque that Gilpin even remarks of a scene beautiful as a whole 
but with no strongly characteristic parts, that "it exhibits such a speci- 
men of the picturesque (if I may speak in terms seemingly contra- 
dictory) as is not well calculated to make a picture." 29 

"After the objects of picturesque travel," says Gilpin (with a 
little flourish of organizational skill), "we consider it's sources of 

Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

amusement. . . ." 30 These consist in the pursuit itself and the at- 
tainment. In the attainment we are sometimes so happy as to come 
upon an agreeable whole, but are usually reduced to admiring parts. 
Our pleasure may be "scientifical," conjecturing amendments and 
forming comparisons with scenes of nature or works of artj but the 
great pleasure from natural scenes is enthusiastic: "We are most de- 
lighted, when some grand scene, tho perhaps of incorrect composition, 
rising before the eye, strikes us beyond the power of thought. . . . 
In this pause of intellect -, this deliqumm of the soul, an enthusiastic 
sensation of pleasure overspreads it, previous to any examination by 
the rules of art. The general idea of the scene makes an impression, 
before any appeal is made to the judgment." 31 But beyond contem- 
plation of the object itself, new vistas of delight open before us: our 
general ideas are formed, 32 and from these we learn to sketch, first 
by way of remembrance, then as a free exercise of fancy, an exercise 
which can be indulged even without the pencil. "There may be more 
pleasure," Gilpin declares, 

in recollecting, and recording, from a few transient lines, the scenes we 
have admired, than in the present enjoyment of them. If the scenes in- 
deed have peculiar greatness, this secondary pleasure cannot be attended 
with those enthusiastic feelings, which accompanied the real exhibition. 
But, in general, tho it may be a calmer species of pleasure, it is more 
uniform, and uninterrupted. It flatters us too with the idea of a sort of 


creation of our own. . . . 

It is noteworthy that Gilpin finds objects of art less capable of 
arousing enthusiasm than the works of nature. The picturesque trav- 
eler, in fact, is apt to acquire some contempt for the haunts of men, 
which have so often a poor effect on landscape. The unnaturalness of 
the garden, the limitations of painting become more obvious to the 
enthusiast of the picturesque. "The more refined our taste grows 
from the study of nature" Gilpin generalizes, "the more insipid are 
the works of art. Few of it's efforts please. The idea of the great orig- 
inal is so strong, that the copy must be pure, if it do not disgust. But 
the varieties of nature's charts are such, that, study them as we can, 
new varieties will always arise: and let our taste be ever so refined, 
her works, on which it is formed (at least when we consider them as 
objects,} must always go beyond it 5 and furnish fresh sources both 
of pleasure and amusement." 34 There is a paradox here: a system 
which isolates a certain property of nature for admiration, a property 
defined by its excellence as a subject for art, comes at last to reject 

William Gilpin 199 

the art for the nature which was at first only its subject. I have ob- 
served above that Gilpin is led to the point of redefining the pictur- 
esque as a universal complex of properties pervading both nature and 
art, and acting upon our physical organism or our mental associations 
to produce an effect peculiar to itself. Here again a picturesque with 
a basis independent of art is needed to resolve the paradox of setting 
out to find the qualities of pictures in nature and returning with a 
preference of nature to pictures. 

Gilpin's third essay deals with one of the "sources of amusement" 
afforded by picturesque travel: sketching landscape. His precepts 
have a practical bent, yet they rest upon the aesthetic ideas of the 
first essay. The subject is handled in a natural order: composition 
(both design in the selection of subject and its parts, and disposition 
in arrangement of them), chiaroscuro, coloring the order of execu- 
tion. Sketching is based upon general ideas picked up in picturesque 
travel 5 even more than in finished drawings and pictures, in sketches 
"general ideas only must be looked for; not the peculiarities of por- 
trait." 35 

Before turning to the criticism of Gilpin's work by Uvedale Price, 
which leads directly into the burst of picturesque theory and practice 
in the last decade of the century, I should mention the observations of 
Reynolds on the picturesque. Using Mason as an intermediary, Gilpin 
submitted a draft of his three essays to Reynolds as early as 1776. 
The latter replied with a letter on the picturesque, addressed to 
Mason, a letter which Mason forwarded to Gilpin. 36 Gilpin's dis- 
tinction of picturesque from ordinary beauty is neatly reduced by 
Reynolds, whose dialectical method and generalizing tendency hardly 
allow for according the picturesque either co-ordinate status with the 
beautiful or even that of a distinct species of the beautiful. With 
characteristic politeness, Reynolds seems to put Gilpin's argument on 
a firmer basis as he brings it into his own system: 

An object is said to be picturesque in proportion as it would have a 
good effect in a picture. 

If the word is applied with propriety, it is applied solely to the works 
of nature. Deformity has less of nature in proportion as it is deformed or 
out of the common course of nature. Deformity cannot [be] ; beauty only 
is picturesque. Beauty and picturesque [Reynolds regularly omits the 
article] are therefore synonymous. This is my creed, which does not 
contradict any part of the Essay; but I think is the great leading principle 
which includes it. 37 

200 Beautijul, Sublime, and Picturesque 

Reynolds grants that "roughness, or irregularity is certainly more 
picturesque than smoothness or regularity, because this carries with 
it the appearance of art, nature being more various and irregular than 
art generally is. ... Where art has been, picturesque is de- 
stroyed, unless we make this exception, which proves the rule, that 
nature itself, by accident, may be so formal or unnatural as to have 
the effect of art ... you may then make nature more picturesque 
by art, by making her more like herself, that is, more like what she 
generally is." 88 In fact, Gilpin's first rejected hypothesis about the 
essential nature of the picturesque satisfies Reynolds well 5 "my opin- 
ion is perfectly expressed" by it, he declares, and he is puzzled that 
Gilpin thinks it unsatisfactory. Reynolds explains away the contrary 
instances which Gilpin had adduced those draperies, ships, and 
ruined castles which appear to advantage in painting and with 
them Gilpin's principle that "a painter's nature is whatever he imi- 
tates, whether the object be what is commonly called natural, or ar- 
tificial." 3d The castle (for instance) is found to please from "an asso- 
ciation of ideas by sending the mind backwards into antiquity and 
producing some new sentiment or by being marked by time, and 
made a sort of natural object. . . ." 40 

For Reynolds, irregularity is nature, nature is beauty, and beauty 
is picturesque. But this picturesque is not the shaggy picturesque of 
Gilpin, the rough textures, fragmented outlines, and broken colors 
of which would be, to Reynolds, all in some measure defects. Accord- 
ingly, fifteen years later, when Gilpin was at last ready to publish 
his essays and sent them again for the imprimatur of Reynolds, 
Reynolds took a different tack, suggesting that "picturesque" as Gil- 
pin describes it is "applicable to the excellences of the inferior schools, 
rather than to the higher. The works of Michael Angelo, Raphael, 
&c. appear to me to have nothing of itj whereas Reubens, and the 
Venetian painters may almost be said to have nothing else." 41 This 
comment applies not to the definition of picturesqueness, the state- 
ment of its denotation as comprising objects suitable for painting, for 
higher and lower schools alike depict objects suited for painting 5 it 
applies rather to the description of qualities which Gilpin's induction 
had indicated were peculiarly fitted for pictorial representation to 
the connotation, that is, which does not (so Reynolds is arguing) cor- 
respond to the denotation. 

Reynolds appears to retract, in the last paragraph of his letter of 
1791, his opinion of fifteen years earlier: "Whatever objections pre- 
sented themselves at first view," he confesses, "were done away on 

William Gilpin 201 

a closer inspection j and I am not quite sure, but that is the case in 
regard to the observation, which I have ventured to make on the word 
pctwesque" 42 But it does not seem to me that Reynolds has really 
changed his mind. His earlier remarks, which appear to be directed 
at the definition, reject this new aesthetic character as anything differ- 
ent from beauty; his later remarks, which appear to discuss the 
description rather than the definition, accord the picturesque an in- 
ferior status, that already granted it in the tenth discourse, which 
was written almost at the time of the first letter. 43 If there be any 
change, it might be that Reynolds is no longer so insistent on exclud- 
ing art works as subjects for painting} but this is no fundamental 
part of his doctrine, and, stated as flatly as he puts it in 1776, seems 

Gilpin sees the distinction of definition from description and in 
his brief answer reaffirms the definition while confessing his igno- 
rance of the grand style and conceding that his roughness is probably 
characteristic of the lower styles. This is implicitly an admission that 
his analysis of the picturesque was imperfect, as being based on a 
partial survey of painting, and that his description does not tally with 
his definition although it may describe something genuinely dis- 
tinct. Picturesque theory developed by keeping the description and 
seeking for new definitions and for new causal analyses. 

Vague as are the indications which Gilpin gives of a causal analysis 
of the picturesque, it is possible to conjecture that he would have 
been more sympathetic to an associational than a physiological ac- 
count. He is decisive in proclaiming that the picturesque eye sees 
through the imagination that "the picturesque eye has nothing to do 
with tunics, irises, and retinas." 44 At times, Gilpin's picturesque ap- 
pears to depend upon association with concrete wholes, as in his re- 
peated resentment at the intrusion of art into natural scenes. But this 
kind of association is not prominent in Gilpin } his picturesque de- 
pends chiefly upon associations with abstract qualities with rough- 
ness of texture, with irregularity of outline, with contrasting lights 
and shades, with variegated and graduated colors* These associations 
he does not attempt to trace, and this omission invites further explo- 
ration of the picturesque. 


Sir Uvedale Trice 

T TVEDALE PRICE, a gentleman of landed property in the 
l^J west of England, was a Whig parliamentarian he was cre- 
ated Sir Uvedale, Bart., for party services j a gentleman farmer he 
contributed occasionally to Arthur Young's Annals of Agriculture; 
something of a classical scholar as a young man he translated from 
Pausanias, and late in life prepared a study of Greek and Latin pro- 
nunciation which is said to anticipate modern views. But it is as a man 
of taste, as champion and theorist of the picturesque, that Price be- 
came, and in some measure still remains, an important figure. Like 
his neighbor in adjoining Shropshire, Richard Payne Knight, Price 
was no mere theorist 5 he laid out Foxley, his Herefordshire estate, on 
picturesque principles, and combined the speculations of the philos- 
opher with the practical taste of the artist. His works on the pictur- 
esque remain the principal monument of picturesque doctrine. 1 

Gilpin had left picturesque theory involved in paradox: though 
understanding the picturesque to be merely that which appears to ad- 
vantage in pictorial representation, Gilpin gave an account of pictur- 
esque qualities which unrealistically delimited the real scope of the 
painter's art. Still more important, he sought, inconsistently with his 
definition of the picturesque, some essential difference in nature be- 
tween the picturesque and the merely beautiful, a difference inde- 
pendent of the special requirements of the painter's art. Since Gilpin 
had pointed out an assemblage of qualities bearing some special rela- 
tion to the art of painting, and yet had failed to discover the essential 
nature and efficiency of those properties, the way was open for a re- 
formulation of the problem which would avoid these embarrassments. 

Price undertakes just such a reformulation. "There are few words," 
he observes, 'Svhose meaning has been less accurately determined 
than that of the word picturesque." 2 Noting that the popular sense 







Sir Uvedale Price 203 

("depictable") is not properly distinguished from "beautiful" and 
"sublime," to which terms Burke had given precision, Price insists 
that such distinction must exist, for no one supposes the terms synony- 
mous. Gilpin erred in adopting this common acceptation as exact and 
determinate; but Gilpin's definition, Price declares, is "at once too 
vague, and too confined": too vague, because it does not isolate the 
qualities which Price and Gilpin agree in deeming picturesque from 
other qualities which please equally in painting; too confined, because 
of the exclusive reference to a particular art. Price intends to show 
"that the picturesque has a character not less separate and distinct 
than either the sublime or the beautiful, nor less independent of the 
art of painting." 3 

But Price's aim is more comprehensive than this. His works on the 
picturesque are intended, theoretically, to determine the general 
causes and effects of the picturesque in all the works of nature and art, 
and (more narrowly) to point out "the use of studying pictures, for 
the purpose of improving real landscape"; practically, his books are 
to open new sources of aesthetic enjoyment and (more narrowly) to 
demolish the system of modern gardening introduced by Kent and 
aggravated by Brown. Price aims, in short, to solve the problem 
which Gilpin was constantly on the verge of stating, but never suc- 
ceeded in isolating: What is it in the nature of picturesque objects 
which renders them different from beautiful objects independently 
of reference to pictures? Having determined, in his first essay, the 
general character of the picturesque, Price declares, 

The next step was to shew, that not only the effect of picturesque 
objects, but of all visible objects whatever, are to be judged of by the 
great leading principles of Painting; which principles, though they are 
really founded in nature, and totally independent of art, are, however, 
most easily and usefully studied in the pictures of eminent painters. On 
these two points . . . rests the whole force of my argument. If I have 
succeeded in establishing them, the system of modern Gardening, which, 
besides banishing all picturesque effects, has violated every principle of 
painting, is of course demolished. 4 

The inquiry, as Price puts it, 

is not in what sense certain words are used . . . but whether there be 
certain qualities, which uniformly produce the same effects in all visible 
objects, and, according to the same analogy, in objects of hearing and 
of all the other senses. . . . 

If it can be shewn that a character composed of these qualities, and 

2O4 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

distinct from all others, does universallj pievail ... it surely deserves 
a distinct title, but with respect to the real ground of inquiry, it matters 
little whether such a character ... be called beautiful, sublime, or 
picturesque, or by any other name, or by no name at all. 5 

The analytical apparatus which Price brought to this problem was 
in part borrowed from Burke. Price professes throughout to be a dis- 
ciple of that eminent man, but (as is usual) the master's doctrine 
undergoes considerable transformation in the hands of the disciple. 
Burke distinguishes sublime from beautiful by means of a psychology 
of pleasure and pain and of the passions j he then isolates the material 
properties which are fitted to arouse these feelings , and finally he 
conjectures at a nervous physiology to account for the production of 
such effects by such causes. Price makes a shift at following the same 
method j but the physiological theory is considerably attenuated, and 
even less plausible than Burke's. Burke holds (as Price indicates in 
a brief but accurate precis) that the natural sublime produces aston- 
ishment by stretching the nervous fibers beyond their normal tone, 
so that the motions of the soul are suspended as if in horror 5 the 
beautiful produces love and complacency by relaxing the fibers below 
their natural tone, which is accompanied by melting or languor. "In 
pursuing the same train of ideas," Price continues, "I may add, that 
the effect of the picturesque is curiosity ; an effect, which, though less 
splendid and powerful, has a more general influence. . . . [Curi- 
osity] by its active agency keeps the fibres to their full [i.e., their nat- 
ural] tone 5 and thus picturesqueness when mixed with either of the 
other characters, corrects the languor of beauty, or the tension of 
sublimity." 6 Now, this notion is attended with a difficulty. How does 
the stimulus of the picturesque, which keeps the fibers to their nat- 
ural tone, midway betwixt languor and tension how does this differ 
from no stimulus at all? It might be allowed that the assemblage of 
qualities which Price treats somehow produces an effect peculiar to 
itself 3 but the apparatus of elastic nerves does not seem elastic enough 
to embrace these new phenomena. A fiber endued with a certain orig- 
inal tension may be tensed further or it may be relaxed 5 but it is 
not easy to conceive of any third possibility. It may be that a physio- 
logical theory of greater elaborateness might be devised, with a 
variety of kinds of fibers, so that combinations could be struck out 
a nerve organ, so to speak. But in this case, it would be a question 
why only these few harmonies are possible 5 why not a host of simi- 
lar aesthetic characters? It seems prudent to avoid such fanciful con- 

Sir Uvedale Price 205 

jectures, and to trace the mental associations and reactions as far as 
possible to their origins, but to leave unbridged the chasm between 
mind and body. 

That Price subscribed to the general method of Burke is unques- 
tionable: "I certainly am convinced," he states, "of the general truth 
and accuracy of Mr. Burke's system, for it is the foundation of my 
own. . . ." 7 Yet he rarely appeals to this materialist physiology to 
account for details of the phenomena he investigates 5 his works are 
confined pretty largely to careful discrimination of the effects and 
painstaking analysis of the material properties which stimulate them. 
It is in the particular material causes rather than in the general effects, 
moreover, that the distinction of the character is best seen, and "it is 
from having pursued the opposite method of reasoning," Price sug- 
gests, "that the distinction between the beautiful and the picturesque 
has been denied." 8 

Price exhibits an eclectic tendency, and owes fealty not only to 
Burke but to Sir Joshua Reynolds ; he contrives to employ both of 
these radically different systems to support his own, which is differ- 
ent from either. "An Introductory Essay on Beauty," prefixed to 
Price's Dialogue on the Distinct Characters of the Picturesque and 
the Beautiful, undertakes to reconcile Burke and Reynolds and to 
subsume both under Price. As he presents a rather full precis of 
Burke's views. Price begins to slip a new foundation beneath them; 
the foundation is this, that "if there be any one position on this sub- 
ject [beauty] likely to be generally admitted, it is, that each 'produc- 
tion of nature is most beautiful in that particular state, before which 
her work would have a^eared incomplete and unfinished, and after 
which it would seem to be tending, however gradually, towards de- 
cay. . . ." 9 No qualities are so accordant with our ideas of beauty 
(as Price had put it in the Essay of 1794) "as those which are in a 
high degree expressive of youth, health and .vigour, whether in ani- 
mal or vegetable life; the chief of which qualities are smoothness 
and softness in the surface; fulness and undulation in the outline; 
symmetry in the parts, and clearness and freshness in the colour." 10 

Burke had included Hogarth's doctrine of the line of beauty in 
his own theory; but the last of Reynolds 7 Idler papers, as Price very 
reasonably interprets it, includes a sharp critidsm of Hogarth's the- 
ory, and thus by implication of Burke's. 11 Price nonetheless sees no 
real contradiction in the methods of Burke and of Reynolds, urging 

206 Beautijul) Sublime, and Picturesque 

although the method of considering beauty as the central form, and as 
being produced by attending only to the great general ideas inherent in 
universal nature, be a grander way of treating the subject; and though 
the discriminations of Mr. Burke may, in comparison, appear minute; 
yet, after all, each object . . . must be composed of qualities, the knowl- 
edge of which is necessary to a knowledge of it's distinct characters. 
Such a method is more easily apprehended, than the more general and 
abstract one which Sir Joshua proposes; and when allied with it, is more 
likely to produce a just estimate of the character altogether, than any 
other method singly. 12 

But Price can not ignore the obvious contradiction in doctrine, and sets 
himself to undermining that part of Sir Joshua's position which de- 
nies the possibility of comparing species in point of beauty 5 he even 
questions the notion that custom determines us to prefer the "central 
form." Price concedes that the beauty of form does consist in a central 
type, a type isolated for the human figure by the Greek sculptors 
an "invariable general form/ 5 but not that which nature most fre- 
quently produces, rather, that which she may be supposed to intend 
in her productions. Since both Burke and Reynolds appeal to the 
same model of beauty antique statues of young and graceful per- 
sons Price concludes that their notions coincide, "and the only dif- 
ference between them is, that the one treats of the great general 
abstract principles of beauty; the other of its distinct visible quali- 
ties." 13 Finally, Price concludes with triumph, "if it appear, that 
those qualities which are supposed to constitute the beautiful, are in 
all objects chiefly found to exist at that period, when nature has at- 
tained, but not passed, a state of perfect completion, we surely have 
as clear, and as certain principles on this, as on many other subjects, 
where little doubt is entertained." 14 

To establish beauty in this fashion to make it a response to signs 
of freshness and youth is to establish it on the association of ideas. 
Commentators on Price have not recognized the importance of asso- 
ciation in his aesthetics 3 Hussey, indeed, denies that Price admitted 
any role to association. Yet despite Price's effort to champion the 
theory of Burke, association assumes a place of very great though un- 
defined importance in his own analysis. "All external objects," he de- 
clares, "affect us in two different ways; by the impression they make 
on the senses, and by the reflections they suggest to the mind. These 
two modes, though very distinct in their operations, often unite in 
producing one effect; the reflections of the mind, either strengthen- 
ing, weakening, or giving a new direction to the impression received 

Sir Uvedale Price 

by the eye." 15 In this passage from "On Architecture and Build- 
ings/' Price attributes to the "eye" the pleasures arising from form, 
light and shadow, and color 5 and to the "mind" the pleasures stem- 
ming from utility, historical connections, and so forth. Elsewhere, 
however, much even of the effect of the physical properties is traced 
to association. Throughout, in fact, Price appeals both to inherent 
efficiency and to association, and rarely troubles to make clear what 
aspect and proportion of the total effect is to be attributed to each 
severally. The weakness of his theory is not that he denies "subjec- 
tive" factors, 16 but that he constantly employs association as an ana- 
lytic device without anywhere presenting a theory of association or an 
outline of its implications for aesthetics. 

This problem of association can be clarified by employing the 
matrix of distinctions developed in my introduction. Associations 
among the perceptions of the different senses, so that, e.g., tangible 
properties come to be "seen," are of crucial importance j for it is thus 
that smoothness becomes beautiful to the eye. Still more pervasive in 
Price are associations of the sensible qualities of things with human 
traits and feelings. It might be argued, indeed, that these associations 
are the essential feature of the picturesque as Price understands it$ 
for the picturesque depends less on the nature of the concrete whole 
than on the visual and tactile properties comprised therein. Of this 
kind is that crucial connection between the beautiful and ideas of 
freshness and youth, and the association of the picturesque with age 
and decay. Price notes, for instance, that ruins, though vegetation 
overgrowing them may have produced an air of softness and insen- 
sible transition, are still not "beautiful" $ for the mind, "from the 
powerful and extensive influence of that principle, called association 
of ideas, is unwilling to give them a title, which, as I conceive, im- 
plies the freshness of youth j or, at least, a state of high and perfect 
preservation." 17 The connection of the picturesque with curiosity, 
again, may be dependent upon association of ideas as well as upon as- 
sociation of impressions through resemblance of the sense impres- 
sions with the passion. 

There are, moreover, associations of objects, of concrete wholes, 
with human traits and feelings. Concretes as such may exhibit util- 
ity, design, fitness, naturalness, congruity, propriety, and so forth 
all which relations enter into the aesthetic response, and all which 
are repeatedly stressed by Price. Or the concrete wholes may, as 
signs, suggest historical, social, poetical, or other affecting circum- 
stances. Blenheim, its brilliant ornaments gilded by the setting sun, 

208 Beautlfuly Sublime y and Picturesque 

seems an enchanted palace, and the viewer perhaps thinks of Alcina 
and Armida, or the village washing scene becomes an image of 
peace and security, and suggests the appropriate passage from 
Homer. 18 Gothic architecture, rich with associations to the romance, 
the violence, the faith of the middle ages, suggests further to the 
cultivated mind paintings in which it has figured, and to which it 
had itself originally lent a charm. 

When Price speaks of the "poetry" of painting, he refers to asso- 
ciations with the subjects of the art; and when he speaks of "the art 
itself," he refers, not to technique, but to the aesthetic characters and 
the principles of their admixture. The associations constituting the 
poetry of painting may suggest to us modes of life, histoncal epochs, 
remote or fascinating places. The aesthetic characters which consti- 
tute the "art" itself are also, at least in part, associational, but the 
associations are of a different order they are associations of the ab- 
stracted qualities of line and shadow and color with one another and 
with the basic feelings of human nature. It is perhaps the predomi- 
nance in Price of such abstract association over poetical association that 
has misled scholars into considering him an "objectivist." It is true 
that Price often posits a direct nervous action of formal properties on 
the mind; but still more frequently he supposes an associational 
mechanism. It is because the use of associational psychology is not 
accompanied with metaphysical fanfares that it has been minimized 
or overlooked. 

Price, in short, despite reiterated allegiance to the principles of 
Burke, is in fact eclectic both in the method and the substance of his 
theory. It is only his modification of Burke's principles which en- 
ables him to introduce the picturesque as a middle character co- 
ordinate with the beautiful and the sublime. 19 

It is now possible to turn from discussion of Price's method to the 
content of his doctrine. The gist of it is set forth in the Essay on the 
Picturesque of 1794. The organization of this book is rhetorical $ it 
is designed to lead the reader by gradual induction to Relieve in" 
the picturesque, the abstract theory of which is presented only at the 
end of the first part of the treatise. The opening chapter treats the 
study of pictures for the purpose of improving grounds, concluding, 
with embittered irony, in a description of an improver at work ad- 
justing a Claude to his notions. The second chapter moves from art 
to nature, and shows how the attractively picturesque qualities of a 
hollow lane would be destroyed by "improvement." These instances 
suggest the reality of the picturesque character, and the third chap- 

Sir Uvedale Price 209 

ter, accordingly, takes up the question at large, comparing this new 
quality with the beautiful in various works of art and nature 5 the 
fourth chapter performs the same function for picturesque and sub- 
lime. The fifth treats of the mixture of beautiful and picturesque, 
with an eye to improvement. Price turns then to detailed examina- 
tion of picturesque material qualities, dwelling especially on the nerv- 
ous effects of smoothness and roughness 5 he treats of form and light 
and shadow (in the sixth chapter), with especial attention to breadth 
of light and shadow (in the seventh), and finally of color (in the 
eighth). The final chapter of this first part introduces the negative 
characters of ugliness and deformity, and works out the analogies 
and contrasts among all five characters. The second part of the Essay 
turns to examination of the system of gardening with which Kent 
and Brown had altered the face of England 5 the first chapter treats 
the general characteristics and defects of this system ; the second dis- 
cusses trees 3 the third, water, and a final chapter is a peroration, di- 
vided between denunciation of the current mode of gardening and 
appeal for the principles of painting to prevail. 

This organization is appropriate both to Price's aims and to his 
method. The general purpose of establishing the picturesque is ac- 
complished in the first part 5 the narrow aim of investigating the 
utility of painting as a guide for gardening is handled chiefly in the 
second part, the prolegomena of the first having prepared the ground. 
Put differently, it might be said that the first division develops an 
aesthetic science, the second an art dependent on that science, and 
that both science and art have consequences in practice, one in aes- 
thetic appreciation generally, the other in gardening especially. 

Price's effort to establish picturesqueness parallel with beauty and 
sublimity is temporarily arrested by the circumstance of the obvious 
etymology of the name, tying the picturesque to painting. But this 
circumstance Price ingeniously and plausibly turns to his advantage. 
"Pittoresco" and the Italian word is the original of the French and 
English "is derived, not like picturesque, from the thing painted, 
but from the painter 3 and this difference is not wholly immaterial." 20 
For painters are struck with numberless circumstances to which an 
unpracticed eye pays little attention: "Quam multa vident pictores in 
umbris et in eminentia, quae nos non videmus!" is the motto from 
Cicero which Price prefixes to his book. The qualities of picturesque- 
ness are of this nature not immediately appealing, and hence un- 
noticed and unnamed by the run of mankind, yet nevertheless seen, 
admired, and isolated by the genius of painters $ and hence the name. 

2IO Beauttjuly Sublime, and Picturesque 

Again, in the preface to his second volume. Price suggests another 
and more ingenious origin of the term: the word "picturesque," he 
writes, "may possibly have been invented by painters to express a 
quality not merely essential to their art, but in a manner peculiar to 
it: the treasures of the sublime and the beautiful, it shares in com- 
mon with Sculpture j but the Picturesque is almost exclusively its 
own* . . ." By "picturesque" is "meant, not all that can be expressed 
with effect in painting, but that which painting can, and sculpture 
cannot express . . . and the etymology of the word . . . sanctions 
the use I have made of it, and the distinction I have given to its 
character." 21 

But the phrase, "picturesque beauty," is a misnomer, Price holds, 
for "in reality, the picturesque not only differs from the beautiful in 
those qualities which Mr. Burke has so justly ascribed to it, but 
arises from qualities the most diametrically opposite." 22 Beauty is 
characterized by smoothness and gradual variation, qualities which 
necessarily limit the variety and intricacy essential to the pictur- 
esque. 23 Roughness and sudden variation, joined to irregularity, are 
the most efficient causes of the picturesque. This proposition is illus- 
trated by a rich and various catalog of picturesque objects Gothic 
cathedrals and old mills, gnarled oaks and shaggy goats, decayed cart 
horses and wandering gypsies, the paintings of Mola and Salvator. 24 
Beautiful and picturesque are further differentiated in that symmetry, 
which accords with beauty well enough, is adverse to the picturesque. 
And the distinction of the two characters is brought under the aes- 
thetic principles peculiar to Price, finally, by the observation that 
"one [depends] on ideas of youth and freshness, the other on those 
of age, and even of decay." 25 Striking descriptions are given of the 
gradual alteration of beauty into picturesqueness as time operates 
upon a temple, a tree, or a man. 26 

It may seem remarkable that symmetry should be pitched upon as 
a principal point of distinction, since Burke had explicitly ruled out 
symmetry as a trait of beauty. He admitted symmetry, to be sure, 
so far as was necessary to avoid deformity, but even in such instances 
it contributed to beauty only as a precondition. 27 Price's remarks on 
symmetry show that he had it in mind as a character chiefly of the 
forms of animals, or sometimes of plants and their parts, and of the 
non-imitative arts of architecture, furniture, and the like. The differ- 
ence between Burke and Price on this point is partly one of nomen- 
clature: Price includes the symmetrical "elegant" within the beautiful, 
since the difference in the sentiments excited is comparatively slight. 

Sir Uvedale Price 2 1 1 

The picturesque is equally distinct from the sublime, both in its 
characteristics and its causes. The sublime is great, often infinite or 
apparently so, often uniform, and is founded on awe and terror. The 
picturesque may be great or small, but, since it so depends on the 
character of boundaries, can never be infinite j it is various and intri- 
cate rather than uniform, and is indifferently gay or grave. 

Although the sublime and beautiful are incompatible admixture 
of grandeur taking off from loveliness picturesqueness renders 
beauty the more captivating. Price's doctrine is, that exclusive atten- 
tion to beauty, to the total exclusion of the picturesque, produces an 
insipid monotony 5 even in painting this may be the case, and Guido's 
works show "how unavoidably an attention to mere beauty and flow 
of outline, will lead towards sameness and insipidity." 2S In nature, 
picturesqueness and beauty are blended 5 the rose, with its thorny 
bush and jagged leaves, is emblematic of this mixture. The happy 
effect of such a union has its basis in psychology: smoothness, literal 
or metaphorical, conveys the idea of repose 5 roughness that of irri- 
tation, of animation, spirit, and variety. Roughness serves as the orna- 
ment of beauty, that which gives it life and spirit, and preserves it 
from flatness and insipidity. Nothing "but the poverty of language 
makes us call two sensations so distinct from each other [as the relax- 
ation of beauty and the lively irritation of the picturesque] by the 
common name of pleasure." 29 Great part of the irritation produced 
by roughness of whatever kind is attributable to association with the 
sensations of touch 5 it is in touch, indeed, that the difference between 
beautiful and picturesque is most sensibly felt. Such automatic and 
necessary association plays a considerable role in the theory of Pricey 
and like Burke, Price is fond of tracing the aesthetic characters 
through the analogies of the various senses. He has an interest in 
music, and finds a picturesque of sound, there is even picturesque 
conversation 5 but in the strict sense, however, Price's picturesque is 
a character of visible objects. 

Discussion of smoothness and roughness and the qualities associ- 
ated with them is illustrated by lengthy and sometimes subtle dis- 
quisitions on the schools of painting. Form, light and shadow, that 
breadth of treatment which unites a scene into one whole, and color 
are the topics. Price dwells most at length upon breadth of lighting, 
for even the intricacy and variety of the picturesque require a ground 
to set them off, to make of them a harmony rather than a discord 5 
this breadth produces a delight even from objects otherwise indiffer- 
ent or ugly. Color, too, is brought within Price's frame of reference 5 

212 Beattfijuly Sublime ) and Picturesque 

the freshness and delicacy of the colors of spring are beautiful, the 
warmth, various richness, and harmony of autumnal hues are more 
suited to painting, and are justly termed picturesque, according in va- 
riety and intricacy with the other traits of that character. Price con- 
cedes that the beauty of color is positive and independent, but the 
picturesque and sublime of color are relative, dependent upon accom- 
panying circumstances and associations. What Price has to say about 
the picturesque in color, and in form, is consistent with the observa- 
tions of Reynolds on that character. It is the Venetians who exhibit 
picturesque coloring ; Guido and Claude pursue the beautiful; 30 the 
Roman school and the Mannerists employ the unbroken and distinct 
colors appropriate to the sublime (to the sublime of history, at least 5 
it appears to me that the sublime of landscape requires a greater ad- 
mixture of picturesque breaking of color and shadow). What strikes 
one as different in Reynolds and Price is that Reynolds, because of his 
insistent reference to generality as criterion, arranges these schools in 
a hierarchy of excellence: the sublime takes precedence of what Price 
calls the beautiful, and this in turn is higher than the picturesque. 
Price, instead, lays out these qualities "horizontally" rather than hier- 
archically. The influence of Reynolds, and the taste of his age, occa- 
sionally lead him to make evaluative judgments similar to those of 
Reynolds, but these are in Price expressions of personal taste rather 
than consequences of a philosophic system and Price's taste is much 
more favorably inclined to the picturesque than that of Reynolds. 

The system of the picturesque is completed by consideration of ug- 
liness and deformity. Having used up Burke's ugly to make the pic- 
turesque, Price is obliged to find a new ugliness 5 this "does not arise 
from any sudden variation [as Burke had urged 31 ] ; but rather from 
that want of form, that unshapen lumpish appearance, which, per- 
haps, no one word exactly expresses 5 a quality (if what is negative 
may be so called) which never can be mistaken for beauty, never can 
adorn it, and which is equally unconnected with the sublime, and the 
picturesque." 32 Deformity, in contrast, consists in an unnaturally ex- 
aggerated rather than a featureless character; it depends not upon 
the physiological effect of the shape as ugliness does, but upon asso- 
ciation, or lack of association, with the norm of the species or with 
regularity. "Deformity is to ugliness, what picturesqueness is to 
beauty; though distinct from it, and in many cases arising from op- 
posite causes, it is often mistaken for it, often accompanies it, and 
greatly heightens its effect. Ugliness alone, is merely disagreeable; 
by the addition of deformity, it becomes hideous; by that of terror 

Sir Uvedale Price 213 

it may become sublime." w The interrelations among the five aes- 
thetic characters are difficult to reduce to diagram. Ugliness appears 
to be the undistinguished potentiality from which the others may all 
be formed 5 yet at the same time it is peculiarly the negation of 
beauty, as deformity is of the picturesque. This, however, is consist- 
ent with Price's view of beauty, for the monotony of that quality 
when unenlivened by any admixture of the picturesque has more 
than once been emphasized, and this monotony allies it to ugliness, 
whereas the piquancy of the picturesque, a little exaggerated, leads 
towards deformity. It is nonetheless curious that ugliness is both 
the excess and the defect of beauty, but the defect only of the other 

Picturesqueness enjoys greatest facility of union with the other aes- 
thetic characters. It holds a middle station between beautiful and 
sublime. It mixes with ugliness, and picturesque ugliness is agreeable 
in painting, thence, by association at first, in nature: "Those who have 
been used to admire such picturesque ugliness in painting, will look 
with pleasure ... at the original in nature. . . ." 34 Beauty, sub- 
limity, and deformity, too, all tend to become picturesque with time. 
This ability of the picturesque to combine agreeably with the ugly, 
and in some measure with the deformed, tells against any theory 
which reduces the picturesque to a mode of beauty. 35 There is, of 
course, a broad sense of the term C beauty" which signifies any kind 
of pleasing aesthetic effect, and in this sense both sublime and pictur- 
esque are comprised within beauty j but in the same sense, Price re- 
marks, envy and revenge are both modes of ill will though distinct 
from one another. The aesthetic characters generally exhibit obvious 
analogies with ethical characters, just as this mode of aesthetic thought 
appears to be established by analogy with ethical philosophy. It may 
be asked, why are the analogous ethical distinctions so much more 
firmly established and widely recognized? Their superior influence 
in practical life has made all men involuntarily moralists, whereas 
the aesthetic distinctions have been little attended to in the earlier 
stages of civilization. Price looks forward, in fact, to the development 
of new aesthetic distinctions, and the development of new terms for 
the union of the picturesque with beauty, with sublimity, or with 

Such is the general theory of the picturesque. Its application to im- 
provement, although subordinate logically, occupies the greater part 
of Price's writings, and was the provocation for most of the attacks 
leveled against his system by gardeners and aestheticans* Yet Price's 

214 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

application of the principles of painting to improvement is attended 
with such qualifications as should have safeguarded him from some 
at least of these assaults. For it was not his desire to reproduce in 
real scenes the compositions found in paintings 5 gardening is not to 
imitate particular pictures, or even to reproduce the same kinds of 
scenes as are found in pictures 5 rather, the original compositions 
formed by improvers from the elements of scenery are to be guided 
by the general principles of painting. 30 "But, however highly I may 
think of the art of painting, compared with that of improving [pro- 
tests Price], nothing can be farther from my intention . . . than to 
recommend the study of pictures in preference to that of nature, much 
less to the exclusion of it. Whoever studies art alone, will have a 
narrow pedantic manner of considering all objects, and of referring 
them solely to the minute and practical purposes of that art ... to 
which his attention has been particularly directed. . . ." 3T Looking 
at nature merely with a view to forming pictures contracts the taste 5 
looking at pictures with a view to improvement of our ideas of na- 
ture enlarges it. It remains true, however, that the capacity to judge 
of forms, colors, and combinations of visible objects "can never be 
perfectly acquired, unless to the study of natural scenery, and of the 
various styles of gardening at different periods, the improver adds 
the theory at least of that art, the very essence of which is con- 
nection. . . ." 38 The principles of painting composition, grouping, 
harmony, unity, breadth and effect of light and shadow are so called 
'^because that art has pointed them out more clearly . . . but they 
are in reality the general principles on which the effect of all visible 
objects must depend, and to which it must be referred." 39 These 
principles are so little affected by the peculiar limitations of painting 
as a medium, that they may properly be taken, as Price does take 
them, as principles for all the co-temporary or spatial arts. Since in the 
spatial arts the combinations are taken in at one view, union and har- 
mony, insensible transition of parts, is the most essential require- 
ment. The "circumstance of insensible transition," Price declares, "is 
the most comprehensive principle of visible beauty in its strictest ac- 
ceptation: as not being confined to lines or curves of any kind, and 
as extending, not only to form, but to colour, to light and shadow, 
and to every combination of them 5 that is, to all visible nature." 40 

If it be objected, why should one art dictate to another? Price is 
ready with his reply: the art of improving is new, it has not been 
distinguished by artists of transcendent genius, nor have any of its 
works so withstood the test of time as to become classics indeed, the 

Sir Uvedale Price 215 

inevitable processes of growth and decay may always prevent the 
products of this art from attaining the venerable authority of the 
statues of Greece and the paintings of Italy. 

Just as the picturesque improver should not seek to imitate the 
particular effects of paintings, so he should not attempt to imitate 
the particular details of uncultivated nature 5 here, as in the imita- 
tion of paintings, he observes the principles by which uncultivated 
scenes please, and endeavors by original selection and arrangement 
of materials to achieve analogous effects on the same principles: "I 
am convinced," says Price, "that many of the circumstances which 
give variety and spirit to a wild spot, might be successfully imitated in 
a dressed place 5 but it must be done by attending to the principles, 
not by copying the particulars. It is not necessary to model a gravel 
walk, or drive, after a sheep track or cart rut, though very useful 
hints may be taken from them both 3 and without having water-docks 
or thistles before one's door, their effect in a painter's foreground 
may be produced by plants that are considered as ornamental." 41 
Price's demands for shagginess apply chiefly to the grounds, or park 5 
the garden in the narrow sense, immediately adjacent to the house, 
he desires to be formal but the ornate formality of the ancient style 
rather than the insipid and monotonous formality of level greens and 
serpentining walks. This moderate position goes pretty far, I think, 
in abating the force of Reynolds' objections to picturesque garden- 
ing. Reynolds, anticipating a part of the argument of Repton, Mar- 
shall, and other "practical" opponents of the picturesque school, had 
expressed to Gilpin his disapproval "of reforming the art of garden- 
ing by the picturesque of landscape painting." The picturesque, ac- 
cording to Reynolds, has nature alone for its object 5 a picturesque 
garden must therefore be totally devoid of art, and therefore not a 
garden. The picturesque attitude towards improvement, Reynolds 
writes, "appears to me undervaluing the art of gardening, which I 
hold to be an art that stands on its own bottom, and is governed by 
different principles. It ought to have apparently, if not ostentatiously, 
the marks of art upon it: as it is a work of art upon nature, it is a 
part of its beauty and perfection that it should appear at first sight a 
cultivated spot that it is inhabited, that every thing is in order, 
convenient, and comfortable ; which a state of nature will not pro- 
duce." 42 These arguments, valid or not, are addressed to a position 
which Price at least does- not hold. 

Price describes the change from the Italian and Dutch styles of 
gardening to that of Kent and Brown by a succinct half-line from 

216 Beauti]ul y Sublime, and Picturesque 

Horace: Mutat quadrat a rotundts. The new improvers, though they 
meant to banish formality and restore nature, had in fact only in- 
stalled a new formality of regular curves in place of the more grand 
and simple straight-lined formality of the old gardens, creating a 
style both monotonous and affected. 43 The great defect of the new 
system, a defect to which it was more subject than the old had been, 
and in which it was most opposite to the principles of painting, was 
"want of connection a passion for making every thing distinct and 
separate. All the particular defects which I shall have occasion to 
notice, in some degree arise from, and tend towards this original 
sin." 44 The most characteristic features of "modern gardening" its 
serpentine drives and walks and canals, its clumps and belts are dis- 
patched in the opening chapter of the Essay's second part 5 trees and 
water, the chief materials of the improver, are treated in the succeed- 
ing chapters, and the practical suggestions which Price advances are 
carefully adapted to his general aesthetics. The objections raised 
against these suggestions by Repton, George Mason, Marshall, and 
others, objections that they are theorizing dreams which cannot be 
reduced to practice, seem to me to rest partly on misapprehension 
of Price's plans, partly on mere habitual attachment to established 
modes of practice. These practical objections melted away in following 
years, and Price may almost be said to have formed the taste of the 
early nineteenth century in gardening and architecture. 

In 1798, the Essay on the Picturesque was supplemented on the 
practical side by a new volume of three essays, designed to meet 
Humphry Repton's challenge to set forth a method of practical im- 
provement which could be acted upon. The "Essay on Artificial 
Water, and on the Method in Which Picturesque Banks May be 
Practically Formed" really handles the whole problem of natural 
foregrounds, a problem of especial importance to improvers, who 
have less control than painters over the distant parts of their scenes 5 
the "Essay on the Decorations near the House" the garden in the 
narrow sense treats avowedly artificial foregrounds, which only are 
in character with architecture. The final essay completes the progres- 
sion from the extremities of the estate towards its center j it is "An 
Essay on Architecture and Buildings, as Connected with Scenery," 
as, that is, subject to the landscapist rather than the builder. 

An aspect of Price's system of "natural" gardening which was 
much ridiculed, an aspect of peculiar importance in these practical 
essays, was the reliance upon time and accident gardening by 
neglect. 45 But Price does not suggest leaving natural processes un- 

Sir lived ale Price 21 7 

controlled. Nature must give the finishing roughness to the gardener's 
work, but the art of the gardener directs nature's operations \ nature 
must crumble the banks of the lagoon, but the improver can under- 
mine and support them in such wise as to determine where and to 
what extent nature can operate. "As art is unable by an immediate 
operation to create those effects, she must have recourse to nature, 
that is, to accident 3 whose operation, though she cannot imitate, 
she can, in a great measure, direct." 4() 

Improvers have been self-defeated in their attempts at beauty, so 
Price says, by their insistent repetition of smoothness and flowing 
lines. For the most essential trait of beauty is insensible transition, 
and in landscape these transitions are effected best by a certain degree 
of irregularity and roughness. Only this much is granted to the ser- 
pentine that the same bareness and formality cut into angles would 
be less beautiful yet. It could be argued that this conception of natural 
beauty dissolves the distinction between picturesque and beautiful; 
Price grants that 

the two characters are rarely unmixed m nature, and should not be 
unmixed in art. In the wooded river, I have supposed roughness and 
abruptness to be so blended with the ingredients of beauty ... as to 
produce altogether those insensible transitions, in which , . . consists 
the justest, and most comprehensive pnnciple of the beautiful in landscape. 
The whole, then, assumes the soft and mild character of beauty. But 
should any of these rough, abrupt parts be more strongly marked . . . 
then the picturesque would begin to prevail: and in proportion as that 
distinct and marked roughness and abruptness increased, so far the 
character of the beautiful would decrease. . . . [But] it would be no 
less absurd to make picturesque scenes without any mixture of the 
beautiful, (and the caution at some future period may not be unneces- 
sary,) than to attempt what has so long, and so idly been attempted 
to make beautiful scenes, without any mixture of the picturesque. 47 

The characters remain analytically distinct, but when manifested in 
concrete objects do not produce a good effect unless in some degree 
mingled. I might urge an analogy with external taste: sweet and 
sour are not the less distinct for their being more pleasing when 
mingled. The analogy is the closer in that tartness (like picturesque- 
ness) is usually not pleasing until we are made accustomed to it by 
artificial productions, and in that sweetness, which is alone pleasing 
at first, subsequently becomes insipid unless varied with some sharper 

218 Eeauti]ul > Sublime, and Picturesque 

The excellence of Italian gardens, even in their perfect state, rests 
upon the combination of beautiful and picturesque elements: 

All persons ... are universally pleased with smoothness and flowing 
lines; and thence the great and general popularity of the present style of 
gardening; but on the other hand those who have paid any attention to 
scenery, are more struck with sudden projections and abruptnesses . . . 
for in all such rugged abrupt forms, though they may be only pictur- 
esque, there is still a tendency towards the sublime; that is, towards the 
most powerful emotion of the human mind. The great point, not merely 
in improvements, but in all things that are designed to affect the imagi- 
nation, is to mix according to circumstances, what is striking, with what 
is simply pleasing. . . . The same principle seems to have been studied 
in many of the old Italian gardens. 48 

The beauty of such a garden, of course, consists in symmetry and 
regularity rather than in serpentmityj even the less grand and 
beautiful Dutch style, with its hedges, labyrinths, and straight canals 
might be indulged, although Price condemns the extravagancies of 
topiary work. 

Yet there is a use for the system of modern gardening, too, though 
in the hands of most practitioners it banishes equally all present 
decoration and all future picturesqueness. With some of its absurdities 
corrected, it serves as a transition from the formal architectural 
garden near the house to the wilder park. The ideal estate, then, 
would have a grand Italianate garden near the mansion, with 
parterres, hanging and balustraded terraces, statues and fountains ; 
beyond the last terrace there would be a smooth pleasure-ground, 
with gravel walks sweeping easily among its ornamental shrubberies 
and trees 5 and at a distance the wooded park, in which the gravel 
walk gives place to the grassy lane, the smooth lawn to the forest 
glade, and the plantations of ornamentals to the intricate variety of 
wild nature. 

The final essay of Price's second volume treats of "Architecture 
and Buildings as Connected with Scenery." The country house is 
necessarily connected with scenery primarily rather than with other 
buildings, and there is a consequent necessity of giving it a picturesque 
appearance from a large number of viewpoints. Ruins, especially 
the ruins of once-beautiful structures, are the most picturesque of 
buildings. Structures designed for use and habitation can hardly be 
made ruinous, however j what does give such structures picturesque- 
ness is the turning of their windows to views suitably framed by 
trees, which, -pari passM, gives the building an intricate irregularity as 

Str Uvedale Price 219 

viewed from without. 49 Connection with the scenery is effected also 
by disposing the offices subordinate to the central mass (instead of 
burying them underground or concealing them in evergreen planta- 
tions), and by planting trees close to the house to break and vary its 
regularity (instead of setting the house down in a meadow). Building 
is thus brought under the principles of painting, and the architetto- 
fottore is the prophet of the new revelation. Only the artist well ac- 
quainted with the beautiful, grand, and picturesque will know when 
to keep these characters separate, when and in what degree to mix 
them, according to the effect intended. 

It is significant and characteristic that Price should remark, in 
treating of the sublime in buildings, that "the effects of art are never 
so well illustrated, as by similar effects in nature: and, therefore, the 
best illustration of buildings, is by what has most analogy to them 
the forms and characters of rocks. . . ." 50 For Price is always ulti- 
mately concerned with the isolation of qualities which pervade both 
art and nature, a concern which minimizes the distinctive artificiality 
of art. The difference of art from nature is more marked, however, 
in architecture than in painting 5 for architecture is not in the same 
sense an imitative art. Since architecture is functional and creative 
rather than representative, the waving line, which is a principal cause 
of beauty in natural objects, appears only to the limited extent that 
associations with function permit. The beautiful in building, then, 
involves straight lines, angles, and symmetry. Symmetry had of 
course been excluded from the beautiful by Burke, on the grounds 
that it reduced variety and freedom 5 only in non-imitative arts is this 
argument overbalanced by other considerations. But Price is not yet 
free of difficulty 5 for it might be argued, on the basis of insensible 
transition, that the ruin is often more beautiful (as well as more 
picturesque) than the entire building, the lines of which are more 
distinct and hard. This paradox is avoided partly by observing that 
the beauty of ruins is attributable rather to the vegetation than to the 
fragmentary architecture, partly by noting that "the mind, from 
the powerful and extensive influence of that principle, called associa- 
tion of ideas, is unwilling to give them a title, which, as I conceive, 
implies the freshness of youth 5 or, at least, a state of high and perfect 
preservation." 51 Price's substitution of a new substructure under 
Burke's aesthetics has permitted him to modify Burke's conclusions 
without outright rejection of the master's authority. 

Price reinforces his analysis by considering "the use, which both 
in history and landscape, some of the principal painters of different 

220 Bwuttlul, Sublime j and Picturesque 

schools and countries have made of buildings, from the highest style 
of architecture, to the simplest cottage from those which are in their 
freshest and most perfect state, to those which time has most de- 
faced and mutilated." 52 The judgments on history paintings are so 
clear, once one has the knack of using Price's distinctions, that they 
need not be dwelt upon. The comparisons and contrasts of styles be- 
come rather subtle, and the entire passage, some fifty pages, bears a 
clear relation to Reynolds' classification of styles and manners. When 
we discover that of two pictures by Poussin and Veronese, "one is 
addressed to the understanding through the sight 5 the other to the 
sight only: and who can doubt which has attained the noblest end?" f " 3 
we can conceive ourselves to be reading the academic discourses. The 
discussion of architecture in history painting serves rather to clarify 
the definitions of the aesthetic characters in architecture than to 
provide practical precepts j but the employment of architecture in 
landscape painting drives close to Price's own concern with the com- 
bination of buildings and landscape gardens. The practice of the great 
landscape painters, therefore, provides directly applicable principles, 
and even hints for practice. Especially useful are the ideas of village 
scenery to be gleaned from the Dutch and Flemish masters. Though 
Price's discussion of such village scenes turns chiefly on his enthusiasm 
for the picturesqueness of village life, his humanitarian sympathies 
concur with his aesthetic inclinations in the improvement of villages, 
and he dilates upon the expansion of benevolence which must accom- 
pany extension of pleasure in picturesque objects. Unhappily, moral 
and aesthetic criteria do not invariably coincide, and the socially 
conscious gentleman must forego half-ruining the houses of his vil- 
lagers to make them more picturesque. Where there is conflict, the 
moral principle must prevail; and eventually it assumes an aesthetic 
guise, since associations of utility enter into the aesthetic as well as 
into the moral judgment. 5 * 

Before advancing into the tangled controversies among Price and 
Knight and Repton, it is necessary for me to return briefly to the 
first theorist of the picturesque, William Gilpin. The 1794 volume 
of Price's Essay on the Picturesque included, at appropriate points 
in the discussion, a number of lengthy footnotes in which Price set 
forth his differences with Gilpin. In the 1810 edition of Price's works 
on the picturesque, these notes were collected into an Appendix to 
the first volume of the Essays the Appendix contains no new material, 
and its somewhat disjointed effect is an obvious consequence of its 
mode of formation. Price declares that Gilpin's Three Essays did not 

Sir Uvedale Price 221 

come to his hand until he had written a great part of his own work. 
This assertion, which I see no reason to doubt, in no way derogates 
from Gilpm's historical importance, for Price acknowledges having 
been influenced by Gilpin's earlier writings. When he first read into 
the "Essay on Picturesque Beauty/' Price says, he thought that his 
own work had been anticipated. "But as I advanced," he continues, 
"that distinction between the two characters, that line of separation 
which I thought would have been accurately marked out, became less 
and less visible j till at length the beautiful and the picturesque were 
more than ever mixed and incorporated together, the whole subject 
involved in doubt and obscurity, and a sort of anathema denounced 
against any one who should try to clear it up." 55 

Gilpin, as Price sees it, has followed a will o* the wisp in trying 
to find a definition of the picturesque which refers to the art of paint- 
ing only, a concern which has made him lose sight of the universal 
distinction between picturesque and beautiful. Seeing that roughness 
is the essential point of difference between the two characters, Gilpin 
was thus led to exclude smoothness from painting except where he 
could show by a kind of sophistry that what is really smooth is in ap- 
pearance rough, "so that," Price observes ironically, "when we fancy 
ourselves admiring the smoothness which we think we perceive, as 
in a calm lake, we are in fact admiring the roughness which we have 
not observed." 5e Price himself, in fact, distinguishes between Gilpin's 
definition of the picturesque as "adapted to painting" and "his more 
strict and pointed method of defining it by making roughness the 
most essential point of difference between it and the beautiful." 37 

Price does not, however, remark the other methodological errors 
into which Gilpin is led by this initial misstep. Instead, he descends 
to details (naturally enough, since his critique originated as footnotes 
to particular points in his own Essay). He has little difficulty in 
overturning Gilpin's notion that only rough, or apparently rough, 
objects please in painting. Gilpm (as we have seen above) concedes 
this point in his letter to Reynolds, but without recognizing that the 
concession requires a restatement of his theory. Price insists that the 
painter may represent objects exhibiting any of the aesthetic char- 
acters j and for him, difficulties like those into which Gilpin is led 
by his exclusive fondness for painting "must always be the conse- 
quence, when instead of endeavouring to shew the agreement be- 
tween art and nature, even when they appear most at variance., a 
mysterious barrier is placed between them, to surprize and keep at a 
distance the uninitiated." 58 No comment could display more clearly 

Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

the bent of Price's aesthetics which is in this particular typical of 
the British systems towards isolation of characters which pervade 
both nature and art, rather than towards the discrimination of the 
problems and traits of art from those of nature. Aesthetiaans of the 
Hegelian tradition also isolate universals found both in nature and in 
art 5 but they analogize nature to art instead of (like the British) sub- 
suming art under nature. Bosanquet, for instance, declares roundly: 
"I have assumed . . . that Fine Art may be accepted, for theoretical 
purposes, as the chief, if not the sole representative of the world of 
beauty." 59 The British writers, in contrast, begin with nature, and 
by allowing for the effects of imitation and design adapt their doc- 
trines to art. Ultimately, I suppose, this difference is a remote con- 
sequence of metaphysical differences: the British empiricists begin 
with a history of the perceptions of the mind, the Germans with an 
analysis of forms or categories inherent in the mind; in one case, 
then, it is simpler to treat aesthetics in terms of the more primitive 
phenomena (nature), in the other in terms of the more intellectual 

Templeman, swept away, perhaps, by the enthusiasm of the spe- 
cialist, is unable to discover anything in the three volumes of Price 
which is not in Gilpin's little essay j he doubts that Price "has much 
to offer in addition to Gilpin, or in defensible disagreement with 
Gilpin." Despite his pompous verbosity, Price "does not give a defi- 
nition of the picturesque" in his Essay; the definition he finally ven- 
tures in his letter to Repton, "what is rough and abrupt, with sud- 
den deviations," is inadequate 3 and Price can no longer insist that 
the words "picturesque" and "beauty" never be combined. 60 To ig- 
nore, as Templeman does, the differences in analytical method be- 
tween Gilpin and Price j to avow that because Price foregoes a one- 
sentence definition for a history of the term and a complex discrimi- 
nation of the picturesque from related characters he does not define 
itj to imply that Price ever denied the practical combination of pic- 
turesque and beautiful or ever abandoned the analytical distinction 
between them this is totally to fail to grasp Price's argument. But 
Templeman is at any rate refreshingly literal in his reading of the 
texts 5 most commentators on these subjects have a Theory, and in 
every point to make it fit, will force all writers to submit. Mayoux 
sees the picturesque as a stage on the road to romanticism; Price's 
"creation du Pittoresque, a cote et audessus du beau avili, marque un 
progres certain de Pesthetique romantique qui a commence avec 
Burke." Mayoux notes especially that Gilpin observes picturesque 

Sir lived ale Price 223 

scenes from fixed points of view, whereas in Price, "le pittoresque est 
Pobjet de sensations successives. C'est une difference primordiale au 
point de vue esthetique, une des grandes separations du beau classique 
et du romantique. On remarquera que Price au lieu de s'attacher au 
point de vue fixe . . . se plait a s'y mouvoir; ainsi le besoin roman- 
tique de changement, de sensations renouvelees, fait sentir son pro- 
gres." 61 I do not think that Price, or indeed any writer on the pictur- 
esque, ranks picturesqueness above beauty. Nor do I see in Price a 
"besoin romantique de changement"; with Miss Manwaring, I be- 
lieve that the new knowledge of painting in eighteenth-century Eng- 
land, knowledge especially of the great landscape painters of the pre- 
vious century, led to a habit of looking at landscape as if it were 
a series of paintings, a habit not at all absurd if not pursued to the 
exclusion of other ways of viewing landscape, and from the stimulus 
of which other and more natural ways of regarding scenery were 
sure to follow. Price, in fact, taking up the rather confused hints 
thrown out by Gilpin towards a general theory of picturesque aes- 
thetics, shows their inadequacy, and develops a theory of the pictur- 
esque as a mode of beauty (in the extended sense) co-ordinate with 
the special beauty of Burke and with the sublime. It retains little of 
the connection with painting from which it sprang, and Mayoux does 
not allow this fact its due weight when he remarks that "c'est par la 
que la theorie de Price est curieuse; par tout ca romantisme visuel, 
dissimule sous le detachement artistique. . . ." 62 What is true in 
this observation is that which I have remarked before, that poetic 
sensibility is less prominent in Price than the feelings excited by the 
more abstract qualities and their composition. In reading Price, how- 
ever, this emphasis seems a consistent and integral part of his system ; 
it should not be made the mark of a conflict, of one system of thought 
insinuating itself under the guise of another. 


Humphry Repton 

T TRGED, perhaps, by the fond ambition of converting to his 
\_) views the leading landscape gardener of the age, Uvedale 
Price dispatched a presentation copy of his Essay on the Picturesque 
to Humphry Repton. 1 The personality of Humphry Repton was 
something of a paradox, pleasing enough in most ways, but rather 
like Jane Austen's Mr. Collins in its mixture of pompous solemnity 
with servile humility in all that related to his profession. Deferential 
almost in the extreme in his "humble endeavours to gratify the royal 
commands" or those of his noble patrons, he yet assumes a magis- 
terial attitude when instructing his detractors and the world generally 
in the dignity of his profession, and confides that he feels it "a kind 
of duty to watch, with a jealous eye, every innovation on the prin- 
ciples of taste in Landscape Gardening , since I have been honoured 
with the care of so many of the finest places in the kingdom." 2 

Repton was not much pleased by Price's attention. He felt that the 
memory of "that great self-taught master," 3 his predecessor the im- 
mortal Lancelot Brown, had been traduced j that "a direct and un- 
disguised attack on the art [of landscape gardening]" 4 itself had 
virtually denied the right of the profession, and of its professors, to 
exist; and, which perhaps piqued him more personally, he felt that 
some of his own ideas had been stolen and brought out in print while 
his own work was still at the printer's. If he had had the most dis- 
tant idea that Price was writing such a book, he complains, he "should 
certainly have been more guarded in my conversations with its 
author, who has frequently adopted my ideas ; and has, in some in- 
stances, robbed me of originality. . . ." 5 While his resentment was 
still keen, Repton dashed off A Letter to Uvedale Price, Esq., of 
which he caused some copies to be struck off for private distribution 
Price, of course, being one of the recipients. Price, doubtless surprised 


Humphry Region 22$ 

by the quickness and tartness as well as by the public character of 
the retort, as hastily wrote off A Letter to H. Repton y Esq. on the 
Application of the Practice As W ell As the Principles of Landscape- 
Painting to Landscape-Gardening . . > this was a major publica- 
tion, about eight times the length of Repton's brief letter. 

But the great landscape gardener had been already affronted some 
months before the unexpected blow from Price. For Payne Knight's 
The Landscape had excoriated the improvers, and had provoked Rep- 
ton especially by, as Repton puts it, "the attempt to make me an ob- 
ject of ridicule, by misquoting my unpublished MSS. [the Red Book 
of Tatton Park, partly incorporated in Sketches and Hints'} ." 6 While 
these attacks on modern improvement were issuing from the presses, 
Repton's own Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening was lan- 
guishing at the printer's, waiting for dilatory artists to complete the 
colored aquatints which make that book today a collector's item of 
great rarity. The delay permitted him, however, to append replies 
and apologia: a seventh chapter was added to repel Knight's attack, 
and an Appendix to treat Price's opinions in the Essay on the Pictur- 
esque. Price's Letter to Repton, too, came out early in 1795, with 
Sketches and Hints still hanging fire; but Repton decided against 
further enlargement of what he puffs as "my great work," so that it 
finally appeared without allusion to Price's Letter. There has always 
been an uncertainty about the date of publication of Sketches and 
Hints. The title-page bears no date, and standard reference works 
give, some 1794, some 1795. The 1794 date has the sanction of Rep- 
ton himself, for in two passages of later works he refers to Sketches 
and Hints as published in I794- 7 This testimony, inexpugnable as it 
seems, is nonetheless erroneous. The Newberry Library of Chicago 
possesses, bound together, copies of Price's Essay and Letter to Rep- 
ton each of which was presented to Repton by the author; bound in 
with these two works are four manuscript letters among Price, Rep- 
ton, and the publisher Robson, and these letters make clear that 
Sketches and Hints was still awaiting publication on February 5, 
I795. 8 

So much for the chronology of the early phase of the controversy. 
My intention is to discuss the publications of Repton in such fashion 
as to give a proper view of his conduct of the controversy and of the 
later development of his practice and thought. But to throw this dis- 
cussion into a proper perspective, I must first give a view of Repton's 
system as a whole. Repton was a professor of landscaping and archi- 
tecture rather than a theoretical aesthetician. This judgment is un- 

226 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

affected by Repton's reiterated statements that he wished posterity 
to judge him by his published works rather than by the actual estates 
he created or altered ("It is rather upon my opinions in writing, than 
on the partial and imperfect manner in which my plans have some- 
times been executed, that I wish my fame to be established," he de- 
clares in the preface to Theory and Practice* }. For these published 
writings are an applied rather than a theoretical aesthetics. They 
contain, to be sure, frequent enunciations of general principles (no 
two lists quite the same), but these principles constitute rather 
automata media of a high order than first principles. Repton assumes 
almost all of his psychology; he never investigates metaphysics, but 
takes propositions implying metaphysical analyses for his starting 
points. These psychological principles serve only as the basis for de- 
ductions of particular precepts which determine the manner in which 
the architect or gardener manipulates his materials to fulfil the re- 
quirements of his profession. One of the most frequent phenomena 
in Repton's books, consequently, is the list of "rules" for managing 
this or that part of the art of landscapist or architect rules for ar- 
ranging the parts of an estate, rules for arched gateways, &c.; and 
equally frequent is the list of "principles" of some style of art, prop- 
ositions which are implicitly guides for practice in that style prin- 
ciples of ancient or of modern gardening, of the town house or the 
country house, of the Gothic, and so forth. 

Now all this forms a decided contrast between Repton and Price 
or Knight. The two amateurs Knight most notably really worked 
out aesthetic systems; Knight carried analysis as deep as aesthetics 
requires, and Price, though less analytical, still gives much more o 
a psychology and a theoretical aesthetics than does Repton. Neither 
Knight nor Price, moreover, was given to making out lists of rules; 
they preferred to bridge the gap from theory to actual making by a 
cultivated taste, a taste formed (so far as things visual are con- 
cerned) on the higher painters. But Repton, without any propensity 
for philosophizing, and with a great concern for directing the creative 
work of others, can not leave so much to the variability of taste es- 
pecially since he wished to weaken the influence of painting on land- 
scape gardening, and thus removed one of the important controls on 
idiosyncrasy. He therefore prescribes taste in directions more con- 
crete than those to which Price and Knight care to bind themselves. 

Since Repton is essentially an unsystematic writer, it is difficult to 
reduce to order the many principles which he enunciates. In general, 
he is concerned with discovering or providing sources of pleasure, 

Humphry Region 227 

without tracing out the causes of these pleasures in more than a 
common-sense way and without much effort to isolate those which are 
peculiarly aesthetic in quality. In the Appendix against Price added 
to Sketches and Hints, Repton gives a list of the "Sources of Pleas- 
ure in Landscape Gardening." These sources are: (/) congruity, of 
parts with the whole, and of the whole with the circumstances of 
the place and its possessor j (2) utility, by which Repton means not 
profitableness, but convenience, comfort, and "everything that con- 
duces to the purposes of habitation with elegance" 3 (5) order, as in a 
walk parallel with a straight wall; (4) symmetry, (5) picturesque 
effect y "which has been so fully and ably considered by Mr. Price" j 
(6) mtricacy; (7) simplicity; (8) variety; (9) novelty, which Rep- 
ton deems a perilous goal to aim at $ ( zo) contrast, a safer substitute j 
(jj) continuity, as in an avenue 5 (12) association, historical or per- 
sonal; (13) grandeur; (14) appropriation, the appearance and dis- 
play of extent of property j (15) animation, whether of water, vege- 
tation, or animals j (j<5) seasons and times of day. 10 The first four of 
these sources are "generally adverse to picturesque beauty," Repton 
tells us, "yet they are not, therefore, to be discarded." So far from 
discarding them is Repton, that he erects congruity and utility into 
the primary principles of his analyses: "The leading feature in the 
good taste of modern times, is the just sense of GENERAL UTILITY." n 
This observation pertains to taste in genera^ with reference to land- 
scape gardening in particular, Repton suggests that "if any general 
principles could be established in this art, I think that they might be 
deduced from the joint consideration of relative fitness or UTILITY, 
and comparative proportion or SCALE; the former may be referred 
to the mind, the latter to the eye, yet these two must be insepa- 
rable." 12 And the observations in Theory and Practice are often re- 
ferred to this dual head. Yet Repton can not mean that all the prin- 
ciples of gardening can be derived from congruity and utility, for he 
constantly introduces judgments based on other principles as in the 
sources of pleasure enumerated above. Nor is it strictly true that 
scale is referable to the "eye" only that scale is ordinarily perceived 
without reflection, whereas the recognition of fitness often involves 
some degree of conscious ratiocination. A more proper distinction 
would distinguish pleasures referable to some physiological or nerv- 
ous mechanism (the "eye," if you will) from those attributable to 
the operation of ideas in association or judgment. Even this more ac- 
curate distinction, however, would not of itself carry us, or Repton, 
very far. 

228 Bcauttful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

Repton's "utility" has no connection with profitableness 5 indeed, 
Repton regularly opposes ornament to profit, and regarded with 
disfavor the jerme ornee of Shenstone: "I have never walked through 
these grounds [Shenstone's Leasowes]," he writes, "without lament- 
ing, not only the misapplication of good taste, but that constant dis- 
appointment which the benevolent Shenstone must have experienced 
in attempting to unite two objects so incompatible as ornament and 
profit." 1S Farm and park, in short, are incongruous. The utility Rep- 
ton has in mind is, instead, a matter of convenience and comfort- 
gravel walks to keep our shoes dry, a southeast aspect for favorable 
weather, &c. Insofar as this utility is an aesthetic excellence, it must 
be because association has connected such circumstances with our more 
disinterested and apparently spontaneous responses to the general 
appearance of things. An exposed situation for the house, that is, 
might "hurt the eye" by calling up half-conscious notions of rain and 
cold, yet without exciting conscious reflection. Perhaps a set of Rep- 
ton's rules will serve to make this point more definite. The site for 
a house, says Repton, is to be decided by four considerations (in order 
of decreasing importance): (i) the aspect 3 (2) the levels of the sur- 
rounding ground j (3) objects of convenience, such as water supply, 
space for the offices, accessibility to roads and towns $ and (4) the 
view from the house. 14 Now only the last of these is altogether an 
aesthetic consideration, the first and second may perhaps come by 
association to be tinged with aesthetic feeling; but the third requires 
so conscious an exertion of the understanding that it can hardly, I 
think, be reckoned aesthetic at all. The first three topics together, of 
course, are branches of Repton's utility. 

Often the semblance alone of utility is sufficient to justify orna- 
ments: a pilaster deceptively seems to provide support. Deception is, 
in fact, a central concept in Repton's view of art, "the highest per- 
fection of landscape gardening," he declares, "is, to imitate nature so 
judiciously, that the interference of art shall never be detected," 15 
whereas formal gardening is an open display of art. More at length, 

The perfection of Landscape Gardening consists in the four follow- 
ing requisites: First, it must display the natural beauties, and hide the 
natural defects of every situation. Secondly, it should give the appear- 
ance of extent and freedom, by carefully disguising or hiding the 
boundary. Thirdly, it must studiously conceal every interference of art 
. . . making the whole appear the production of nature only; and, 
fourthly, all objects of mere convenience or comfort, if incapable of 

Hu?nph\ Repton 229 

being made ornamental, or of becoming proper parts of the general 
scenery, must be removed or concealed. . . . 

Each of the four objects here enumerated, are directly opposite to 
the principles of ancient gardening, which may thus be stated. First, the 
natural beauties or defects of a situation had no influence, when it was 
the fashion to exclude, by lofty walls, every surrounding object. Sec- 
ondly, these walls were never considered as defects, but, on the con- 
trary, were ornamented with vases, expensive iron gates, and palisades, 
to render them more conspicuous. Thirdly, so far from making gardens 
appear natural, every expedient was used to display the expensive ef- 
forts of art, by which nature had been subdued. . . . And, lastly, with 
respect to objects of convenience, they were placed as near the house 
as possible. . . , 16 

Modern gardening, it is clear, involves a constant and pervasive de- 
ception j Nikolaus Pevsner has spoken of "the landscape garden that 
tries seriously to look like Nature Unadorned, the landscape garden 
that has deceived us all at some stage into believing it to be England's 
natural scenery." 1T It is amusing to see Repton occasionally en- 
trapped by deceptive associations of his own creating. Brown and he 
had built so many artificial rivers with terminations deceptively con- 
cealed by "bridges, 35 that at last Repton could not throw a bridge 
across a real river for fear of making it seem artificial! ls Repton him- 
self objects to art deceptively imitating art: "Deception may be al- 
lowable in imitating the works of NATURE ; thus artificial rivers, lakes, 
and rock scenery, can only be great by deception, and the mind ac- 
quiesces in the fraud, after it is detected 5 but in works of ART every 
trick ought to be avoided. Sham churches, sham rums, sham bridges, 
and everything which appears what it is not, disgusts when the trick 
is discovered." 10 

But "art" is not a pejorative term in Rep ton's writings. Repton 
thinks of himself as an eclectic, inheriting the best of the modern style 
from Brown, and leading a renaissance of the best in the old style: 
"I do not profess to follow either Le Notre or Brown, but, selecting 
beauties from the style of each, to adopt so much of the grandeur of 
the former as may accord with a palace, and so much of the grace 
of the latter as may call forth the charms of natural landscape." 20 
Repton's formalism has occasioned a good bit of discussion, and I 
shall dwell upon it briefly. The Red Books of Hasells and Cobham 
were written, Repton states, "in the year 1790, before Mr. Price 
published his Essays"; and on both estates Repton recommended the 

230 Beauttful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

retention or extension of formal terraces. 21 If Repton's memory is 
accurate, he did without question participate in the formal revival 5 
but it is not necessary to give him credit for leading it. Price and 
Knight had developed their views before going into print 5 they are 
independent of Repton; they are more systematic and thoroughgoing 
in their formalism 5 and they rest their preferences on different the- 
oretic bases. Even their taste in formal gardens does not accord with 
Repton's 5 the taste of Knight and especially that of Price is for a 
definitely Italianate style near the house, with ivied stone balus- 
trades, open stairways, statuary enniched in hedges, all on a magnifi- 
cent scale and style. Repton, however, leaned more and more towards 
the creation of a multiplicity of small and largely disconnected gar- 
dens curiously enough, the very sort of thing which Lord Kames 
had recommended. This tendency became more pronounced in Rep- 
ton's late work, until in such a report as that on Ashndge he de- 
signed "no less than fifteen kinds of gardens." 22 Five of these were 
in the modern pleasure-ground manner, a couple in a consciously 
antique style, and several in Repton's own manner an arboretum, an 
American garden, a winter garden, 23 and two with raised beds of 
flowers. Repton became, in fact, the originator of what John Claudius 
Loudon dubbed the "gardenesque" style, with its separate compart- 
ments and its attention to the peculiarities of type-plants of various, 
especially exotic, species. 24 

Repton suggested numerous innovations in the landscape garden 
of his day: to reduce the size of the pleasure ground "within such 
limits that it may be kept with the utmost artificial neatness/ 5 to mark 
the separation of artificial from natural scene, to let the dressed 
grounds "rather appear to be the rich frame of the landscape than a 
part of the picture" from the windows, to connect the garden with 
the house by a sheltered way, and to provide a winter garden. 25 The 
tendency of the first three of these suggestions is to separate garden 
and park, and this is a distinction often emphasized by Repton, and 
connected by him with the distinctions between nature and art and 
between utility and the picturesque. "And while I have acceded to 
the combination of two words, landscape and gardening," Repton 
cautions, "yet they are as distinct objects as the picture and its frame. 
The scenery of nature, called landscape, and that of a garden, are as 
different as their uses; one is to please the eye, the other is for the 
comfort and occupation of man: one is wild . . . while the other is 
appropriated to man in the highest state of civilization and refine- 
ment." 20 (When Repton speaks of "acceding" to the term "land- 

Humphry Repon 231 

scape garden," he forgets that twenty years earlier, in the Introduc- 
tion to Sketches and Hints y he had claimed the term as his own.) The 
garden proper is defined to be "every part of the grounds in which 
art, rather than nature, is to please the eye, the smell, and the taste," 
or again as "a work of ART, making proper use of the materials of 
NATURE." 2T All this implies a preference for the garden rather than 
the park. Price remarks that whereas he had spoken largely of the 
park, Repton answered by speaking of the garden 5 and this bias in- 
creased pronouncedly in later years. In 1 8 1 1 Repton suffered an in- 
jury to his spine in a carriage accident, and this fortuitous circumstance 
had a curious influence on the development of the art, for it turned 
Repton's attention more exclusively to the improvement of houses 
and gardens rather than of parks or forests; he speaks of the design 
for Ashridge as "the child of my age and declining powers: when no 
longer able to undertake the more extensive plans of landscape, I was 
glad to contract my views within the narrow circle of the garden, in- 
dependent of its accompaniment of distant scenery." 2S The influence 
of years and of infirmity is manifested in numerous details of Rep- 
ton's theory and practice: after being a life-long advocate of the 
gravel path (as opposed to the picturesque grass walk), he suddenly 
advocates grass glades for the accommodation of wheel chairs 5 and, 
unable to stoop to pick a flower from the ground, he creates the 
raised flower bed, which went far to modify the character of the Eng- 
lish garden in the nineteenth century. 

When Repton presented his ideas more fully, he usually distin- 
guished three "distances": the garden, the park, and the forest or 
open country. Now in outline this is also Price's view of a large 
estate 5 it seems still more like Price when Repton tells us that "in 
forest scenery we trace the sketches of SALVATOR and of RIDINGER; 
in park scenery, we may realize the landscapes of CLAUDE and 
POUSSIN: but, in garden scenery, we delight in the rich embellish- 
ments, the blended graces of WATTEAU, where nature is dressed, but 
not disfigured, by art 5 and where the artificial decorations of archi- 
tecture and sculpture are softened down by natural accompaniments of 
vegetation." 29 Price had used Salvator, Claude, and Watteau in the 
same analogy in his Letter to Repton. 20 

Repton rarely shows any independent knowledge of painting, and 
he is vigorously opposed to Price's notion of bringing gardening under 
the principles of painting. Sometimes, granted, he speaks in the con- 
ventionalized language of picturesque vision often repeating that 
the landscape and garden are as the picture and its frame. But despite 

232 Beauti]ul y Sublime, and Picturesque 

these locutions, Repton consistently argues against the predominance 
of painting. "The art I profess/' he cries, "is of a higher nature than 
that of painting, and is thus very aptly described by a French author. 
< ? / est y a la f)oes\e et a la femture, ce que la realite est a la de- 
scnytion y et I'ongmal a la copie.'" sl Led by conversations with 
Price and Knight into inquiring the differences of the two arts, Repton 
enumerates these. 

/. The point of view of the painter is fixed, whereas the gardener 

surveys his scenery while in motion, and from many sites. 
2. The field of vision is greater m nature than in a picture, 
j. The view down a hill is not representable in painting. 

4. The light on a real scene shifts, and (unlike painting, where com- 
position and keeping can be secured only by setting off light with 
shade) all parts of a scene may bear illumination. 

5. The foreground, so essential to the picture, is usually lacking in 
the real landscape. 32 

And although conceding that the delight of the imagination in intri- 
cacy makes desirable distinct breaks between the reaches of a land- 
scape, Repton denies that the three distances of a landscape painting 
can be created in real landscape (except in the figurative sense men- 
tioned above), for of the three distances of the improver, "the first 
includes that part of the scene which it is in his power to improve 3 
the second, that which it is not in his power to prevent being injured 5 
and the third, that which it is not in the power of himself, or any 
other, either to injure or improve. . . ." 33 The idea that painting 
should supply models for landscaping affords opportunity for the 
satirical excursions in which this controversy abounds: "This idea of 
deriving all our instruction from the works of great painters, is so 
ingenious and useful, that it ought not to be confined to gardening 
and building. In our markets, for instance, instead of that formal 
trim custom of displaying poultry, fish, and fruit, for sale on different 
stalls, why should we not rather copy the picturesque jumble of 
Schnyders and Rubens? Our kitchens may be furnished after the 
designs of Teniers and Ostade, our stables after Woovermans, and 
we may learn to dance from Watteau or Zuccarelli. . . ." 34 All this 
despite the derivation of the term "landscape-gardening," which 
Repton chooses because the art can only be perfected "by the united 
powers of the landscape fainter and the practical gardener. The 
former must conceive a plan, which the latter may be able to exe- 
cute. . . ." The mere gardener, "without some skill in painting, will 

Humph) y Repton 233 

,eldom be able to form a just idea of effects before they are carried 
nto execution." 35 Subsequently, however, Repton seems disposed to 
ransfer from painter to gardener this faculty of foreseeing effects j 
he painter, he remarks, "sees things as they are? the landscape 
gardener "as they will be" 36 

Discussion of the relation of painting to gardening leads to Repton's 
new of the picturesque, for Repton usually uses the term "pictur- 
isque" to mean "pictorial." "In the park and forest," he cries, "let 
he painter be indulged with the most picturesque objects for his 
pencil to imitate ... let the active mind be soothed with all the 
Beauty of landscape, and the contemplative roused by all the sub- 
limity of prospect that nature can produce 5 but we must also provide 
artificial scenes, less wild, though not less interesting . . ." for the 
pleasure grounds of the leisured. 37 This remark suggests that Repton 
thought pictorial chiefly what is wild, rugged, and shaggyj this is 
Gilpinism, and with this clew we can follow Repton's conception of 
the picturesque throughout his writings. 

The admiration which Repton expressed for the aesthetic theory 
of Burke was no doubt fostered by the reflection that Burke's theory 
left no room for a character alongside the beautiful and the sublime, 
though this polemical interest in no way obstructed Repton's theoreti- 
cal grasp of Burke's theory and his skill in employing it in the analy- 
sis and construction of actual scenes. In the Letter to Price, it is true, 
Repton does seem to accept Price's conception of the co-ordinance of 
the picturesque with beautiful and sublime (although denying that 
it is a prime object of gardening) j yet there is nothing in the other 
writings, or in the principles underlying the Letter, to indicate such 
a conviction. Repton speaks as often as not of "picturesque beauty," 
which is a solecism in Price's system, though consistent enough with 
Gilpin's usage. Gilpin and Price agree in this, that the picturesque 
is in some sense rough 5 Repton is in accord, but he sees roughness 
only in what is wild and unkempt. For Price, in contrast, highly 
dressed scenes, if intricate, various, and full of abrupt modifications 
of form and light, are perfectly picturesque. Repton appears to take 
both definition and description from Gilpin. 

In architecture, Repton's taste is more like that of Price, and in 
his discussions of buildings "picturesque" is a term of praise rather 
than opprobrium. The reason is, I think, that the picturesque appears 
in (non-ruinous) architecture in the form of irregularity of plan 
and elevation and of intricacy of ornamentation. Irregularity is emi- 
nently pictorial, and at the same time is often the handiest manner 

234 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

of building, as accommodating a variety of sizes, shapes, and exposures 
for rooms and as permitting additions with greatest grace. Utility 
and picturesqueness thus in great measure coincide in architecture, 
whereas in gardening (as Repton saw it) they were largely opposed. 
Gothic is clearly the picturesque style in architecture, and from his 
first work to his last Repton preferred Gothic to Grecian. His in- 
terest in irregular architecture was, in fact, a powerful force operat- 
ing on the taste of the following generation in which the Gothic Re- 
vival swept over all England. The "great principle on which the 
picturesque effect of all Gothic edifices must depend," says Repton, 
is ". . . irregularity of outline; first, at the top by towers and pin- 
nacles, or chimneys 5 secondly, in the outline of the faces, or eleva- 
tions, by projections and recesses; thirdly, in the outline of the 
apertures, by breaking the horizontal lines with windows of differ- 
ent forms and heights 3 and, lastly, in the outline of the base, by the 
building being placed on ground of different levels." 38 It was "Queen 
Elizabeth's Gothic" that Repton recommended most often rather 
than castle or abbey Gothic, and he laments the "mutilation of the 
old halls and manor houses, where the large bay windows, the lofty 
open chimneys, and picturesque gables of Queen Elizabeth's time, 
give place to the modern sashes and flat roofs, with all the garish frip- 
pery of trellis, and canvas, and sharp-pointed pea-green Gothic 
porches, or porticos of Grecian columns reduced to the size of bed- 
posts." 39 

Although Repton's notion of the picturesque in architecture came 
in application very close to Price's (however different the underly- 
ing theories), in scenery Repton thought of the picturesque as wild 
and uncouth, fitter for gypsies than for English gentlemen, unless 
the gentlemen amused themselves with rifles or canvases. This image 
of picturesqueness is probably derived not only from Gilpin's nature- 
appreciation but from the style of landscape painting of the contem- 
porary English school, which specialized in subjects that were wild 
without being great, and that of their Dutch and Italian models. In 
the report on Endsleigh (which I think was written early though 
published late), Repton discourses on the picturesque: 

This word has, of late, excited considerable interest and controversy; 
but the word, like many others in common use, is more easy to be un- 
derstood than defined; if it means all subjects capable of being repre- 
sented in a picture, it will include the pig-sties of Moreland, as well as 
the .filthy hostels of Teniers and Ostade. . . [but it is absurd to repre- 
sent all that is visible without selecting what is most beautiful]. The 

Humphry Region 235 

subjects represented by Salvator Rosa, and our English Mortimer, are 
deemed picturesque, but, are they fit objects to copy for the residence 
of man, in a polished and civilized state? Certainly not. 40 

The picturesque is consistently connected in this way with painting 5 
and sometimes the connection becomes very particular, as in the ob- 
servation that Grecian buildings have a beautiful effect amidst pointed 
or conical trees not only from contrast but because Italian painting 
has so often blended Grecian architecture with firs and cypresses. 
Such association by resemblance with the subjects or modes of repre- 
sentation of paintings is of peculiar importance in Knight's account 
of the picturesque, though this is a superficial instance, since the asso- 
ciation involves the concrete wholes represented rather than the ab- 
stract qualities themselves. 

It is important to notice the importance of association in Repton's 
thought. Like those of Price and Knight, Repton's aesthetic rules 
and judgments depend heavily upon association there is almost no 
trace of Burke's physiology but the classes of association stressed 
are not the same. What Repton calls by the name "association" is not 
of the first order of importance in construction of his theory, though 
in actual appreciation it "is one of the most impressive sources of de- 
light 5 whether excited by local accident, as the spot on which some 
public character performed his part; by the remains of antiquity, as 
the ruin of a cloister or a castle 3 but more particularly by that per- 
sonal attachment to long known objects ... as the favourite seat, 
the tree, the walk, or the spot endeared by the remembrance of past 
events: . . . such partialities should be respected and indulged, 
since true taste, which is generally attended by great sensibility, ought 
to be the guardian of it in others." 41 Such personal or historical cir- 
cumstances involve associations with concretes rather than with ab- 
stract qualities, and they are adventitious rather than inherent; this 
kind of association only is so termed by Repton. 

But Repton appeals also to associations with qualities taken ab- 
stractly. He claims as his discovery the observation that Grecian 
architecture consists essentially of horizontal lines and Gothic of ver- 
tical, 42 and the problem of purity or mixture of styles depends partly 
on the composition of these lines. But it depends partly also upon our 
habits of vision as determined by historical accident j Repton de- 
nounces the incongruous mixture of Gothic and Grecian on antiquar- 
ian grounds, though he is inclined to permit some mixture of the 
three Gothic styles, for "whilst every casual observer may be struck 
with the incongruity of mixing the Grecian with the Gothic styles, 

236 Beautijtd, Sublime, and Picturesque 

yet the nice antiquarian alone discovers, by the contour of a mould- 
ing, or the shape of a battlement, that mixture of the castle and abbey 
Gothic, which is equally incorrect with respect to their different dates 
and purposes." 43 It is interesting to note that Knight and Price, 
whose habits of vision were formed proportionately more on paint- 
ings, were inclined to justify the mixture of Grecian and Gothic which 
is so frequent in the Italian landscapes of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries. Repton at one time became so particular that he 
began to complain of the "mixed style" of Queen Elizabeth's Gothic, 
for "a mixed style is generally imperfect: the mind is not easily rec- 
onciled to the combination of forms which it has been used to con- 
sider distinct ... it feels an incongruity of character ... it is like 
uniting, in one object, infancy with old age, life with death, or things 
present with things past." 44 But this archaeological sensitivity is 
found only in the book explaining Repton's design for the pavilion 
at Brighton which was to be in the Hindu style. He desired to 
introduce a new and safe source of novelty into British architecture 
which would not be susceptible of corrupting mixture with the two 
accepted systems 5 and it was his interest to show that the accepted 
systems were not themselves wholly adequate in utility and style. 
The Fragments subsequently betray no dissatisfaction with the "mixed 

Habitual association resulting from historical circumstances does 
not account wholly for our reactions to the materials of building, for 
this depends also on the properties of the materials, their costliness 
and durability. Such considerations lead us to that branch of associa- 
tions with concretes which involves properties essential to the objects. 
Utility, fitness, and design all include such associations as these, and 
it is only insofar as they are associational that utility and fitness are 
aesthetic. So long as we approve the utility of an object with a prac- 
tical aim in view, our feeling is perhaps pleasurable, but does not 
have the detachment and freedom of aesthetic pleasure 5 it is only 
when perceived sympathetically, without direct practical concern- 
ment or conscious reflection, that utility assumes an aesthetic guise. 
The practical view of a farm gives non-aesthetic satisfaction 5 the dis- 
tant view of an active farm scene may give a truly aesthetic pleasure 
from the ideas of animation, prosperity, and happiness which it sug- 
gests. The utility of which Repton most often speaks lends itself es- 
pecially well to aesthetic feeling 5 it is not that of a farm but of a 
retirement for leisure, and the detachment and freedom of leisure 
are associated to its conveniences. The merits Repton saw in formality 

Humphry Re ft on 237 

were of this kind, though he was not insensible to its picturesque 
qualities. But on occasion Repton becomes too practical for his judg- 
ments to be considered aesthetic 5 his analysis o the differences of 
town house and country house., and his rules for the layout of an 
estate, are so largely in terms of immediate function that they must 
be considered non-aesthetic 5 45 Price discusses these same points, but 
in terms of creating visual effects. 

Repton's utility has a range of moral overtones which determine 
his taste in beauties. Throughout his long career, Repton preferred 
neat and open scenes with light and animation j "cheerful" and 
"gloomy" are among his favorite epithets of praise and reproach, and 
he never tires of altering "the melancholy appendages of solitary 
grandeur observable in the pleasure-grounds of the last century." 46 
His "favorite propensity for humanizing, as well as animating, 
beautiful scenery" 4T is a matter of taste and character, but is at the 
same time a facet of his preference of utility to picturesque beauty 
when the two conflict. His own tiny garden in the village of Romford 
was a frame to the landscape he preferred, a frame "composed of 
flowering shrubs and evergreens 5 beyond which are seen, the cheer- 
ful village, the high road, and that constant moving scene, which I 
would not exchange for any of the lonely parks that I have improved 
for others." 4S 


The Price-Repton Controversy 

REPTON'S Letter to Price betrays, in its lack of system and or- 
der, the haste with which it was composed ; and this is the more 
unfortunate since Price unimaginatively organized his much longer 
Letter to Repton to answer point by point. Neither of these works of 
controversy impresses as a powerful or profound piece of aesthetic 
speculation. Repton introduces his assault with the conciliatory judg- 
ment that "in the general principles and theory of the art, which you 
have considered with so much attention, I flatter myself that we 
agree j and that our difference of opinion relates only to the propriety, 
or, perhaps, possibility, of reducing them to practice." 1 Repton's 
principles are really, however, very different from those of Pricey 
and since Repton proceeds to show that Price's (as he understands 
them) are not practicable, it is a question how they could be accepted 
even in theory if inherently insusceptible of reduction to practice? 
Price perceives this paradox and is quick to point out the "very singu- 
lar contrast" between Repton's opening professions of agreement 
upon principles and the ensuing attack upon those very principles. 2 

The principles which undergo Repton's examination are, that the 
painter's landscape is the model for the gardener, and that the pic- 
turesque consists in the wild and uncouth. Neither of these proposi- 
tions, of course, was asserted by Price. He proposed not to copy pic- 
tures in gardens, but to apply in landscape the principles of compo- 
sition governing all visual phenomena, principles isolated most read- 
ily, to be sure, in the works of the great painters. "The question, 
therefore, is not," Price declares, "whether the Caracci, Francesco 
Bolognese, or S. Rosa, would study landscapes in a flower-garden, but 
which of two scenes of the same character (whatever it were, from 
the Alps to a parterre,) had most of those qualities that accord with 
the general principles of their art." 3 And secondly, the picturesque 


The Price-Repton Controversy 239 

is nowise incompatible with high ornamentation and the conveniences 
of civilized life, Price avows that he might even prefer the nation 
to be wholly finished by Brown rather than become one "huge pictur- 
esque forest" the fate Repton foresaw if the "new system of im- 
proving *by neglect and accident' " should prevail. 4 These two prin- 
ciples are in Repton's thought really only one 5 "it seems to me," 
Price observes in noting this coincidence, "that your principal aim 
through the whole of this Letter, is to shew, that by an attention to 
pictures, and to the method of study pursued by painters, only wild 
and unpolished ideas are acquired." 5 Not so, of course, the elegance 
of Claude, the formal grandeur of Poussin (to look no farther) re- 
fute this notion. Nor, moreover, did Price propose that the improver 
should abandon design to chance, but only that he should gam hints 
for design from observing the effects produced by neglect and acci- 
dent. This use of accident is a consequence of the nature of the art, 
for, unlike architecture, gardening deals with the materials of na- 
ture. 6 

Repton's letter falls, after introductory compliment and blow, into 
three sections: the first, an examination of the relation of painting 
and gardening; the second, an apology for Brown's clump and belt; 
the third, a return to the offensive with a renewed attack on painting 
and the picturesque. However amateurs might be misled into sup- 
posing a great affinity amongst the several arts they cultivate, Repton 
remarks in taking up the first of these heads, mature consideration 
and practical experience have led him to realize that "m whatever re- 
lates to man^ yro-priety and convenience are not less objects of good 
taste, than picturesque effect. . . ." 7 Price's reply to the argument 
from utility is revealing. After describing how a landscape painter 
might improve a scene, he observes that "in all this, convenience and 
yro-priety are not the objects of consideration: not that either of them 
is to be neglected, but that they are objects of another kind; objects 
of good sense, and good judgment, rather than of that more refined 
and delicate sense and judgment, called taste. Any glaring offense 
against either of them is disgusting, but the strictest observance of 
them will give a man but little reputation for taste, unless the gen- 
eral effect of the pcture be good." 8 The argument is, that circum- 
stances of utility are not truly aesthetic in quality & point which I 
have hitherto considered at sufficient length. Price is chiefly interested 
in associations with abstract visual qualities, or in the direct nervous 
action of such qualities, and it is doubtful that he would judge aes- 
thetic any assemblage of concretes not enriched by associations with 

240 Beautiful, Sublime) and Picturesque 

line, color, and shade. The question to be decided is in a sense one 
of terminology 5 but the terminology hinges upon a discrimination 
of subtle sensations. Disinterested appreciation of utility is assuredly 
pleasurable, though assuredly different in feeling from pictorial 
values y ought the two feelings to be ranked together? Here the 
habits of feeling and the philosophic inheritances of the two dis- 
putants come into play. Price is by temperament highly sensitive to 
compositional and to romantic values, and (though a Whig human- 
itarian) loves seclusion and reverie. Repton is by native temperament 
and by the conscious habits of his professional duties concerned more 
with society than with contemplation, and (his visual sensitivity not- 
withstanding) concerned more with use than with composition or 
poetic feeling. Price is temperamentally disinclined from accepting 
convenience as an aesthetic consideration, while Repton is prompted 
to consider it a part, and the chief part, of taste. Add to this, that 
Repton had really no philosophical inheritance except those eulogies 
of Brownian gardening which were couched often in terms of utility, 
whereas Price built upon the system of Burke, the whole influence 
of which was against admission of the useful as a cause of beauty. 9 

In examining picturesqueness (I revert to Repton's Letter)^ Repton 
takes advantage of Price's distinction between beautiful and pictur- 
esque: "There is no exercise so pleasing to the inquisitive mind," he 
avers, "as that of deducing theories and systems from favourite opin- 
ions: I was therefore peculiarly interested and gratified by your in- 
genious distinction betwixt the beautiful and the picturesque ; but I 
cannot admit the propriety of its application to landscape gardening 3 
because beauty, and not 'picturesqueness,* is the chief object of mod- 
ern improvement. . . ." 10 In reply, Price makes three observations 
which restate the issue cleared of the obfuscations which Repton's 
misreading or rhetoric had thrown over it. The picturesque, firstly, 
is not a reference to painting but a separate aesthetic character j it is 
in many cases not applicable to gardening, but the general principles 
of painting are always so. The landscape gardener, secondly, does 
more than make a garden near the house, where the picturesque must 
often be sacrificed 5 he makes a park. And thirdly, in nature the pic- 
turesque is usually mixed with the beautiful, whereas improvers have 
exhibited "the dangerous tendency of recommending a narrow ex- 
clusive attention to beauty as a separate quality . . . instead of a 
liberal and enlarged attention to beauty in its more general sense 
[which would include the picturesque], to character, and to the 
genius loci." n Price suggests, and I think plausibly, that Repton is 

The Price-Repton Controversy 241 

influenced by a jalousie de metier > which leads him to misstate the 
issue on one side by taking gardening in the narrower sense rather 
than landscape gardening, and on the other side by taking painters' 
studies o wdd nature exclusively. Those insensible transitions in 
which Burkeian beauty consists are, after all, best effected in gardening 
by a natural style of loose arrangements ; Brown's effort at this beauty 
consisted in making the separate parts smooth or undulating, but in 
leaving each part clump, belt, walk, river perfectly distinct and 
sharply separated. Brown and his followers, says Price, "have been 
universally and professedly, smoothers, shavers, clearers, levellers, 
and dealers in distinct serpentine lines and edges. . . ." 12 

Repton introduces one argument on this general head which re- 
quires especial attention, the political analogy which is appealed to 
in one form or another both by the disputants of the eighteenth cen- 
tury and the scholars of the twentieth. Repton 

cannot help seeing great affinity betwixt deducing gardening from the 
painter's studies of wild nature, and deducing government from the 
uncontrolled opinions of man in a savage state. The neatness, simplicity, 
and elegance of English gardening, have acquired the approbation of 
the present century, as the happy medium betwixt the wfldness of na- 
ture and the stiffness of art; in the same manner as the English consti- 
tution is the happy medium betwixt the liberty of savages, and the re- 
straint of despotic government; and so long as we enjoy the benefit of 
these middle degrees betwixt extremes of each [he concludes], let ex- 
periments of untried theoretical improvement be made m some other 
country. 13 

Price rejoins in like vein that his pride and exultation in the British 
constitution "would sink into shame and despondency, should the par- 
allel you have made, ever become just: should the freedom, energy, 
and variety of our minds, give place to tameness and monotony j 
should our opinions be prescribed to us, and, like our places, be 
moulded into one form," and so forth 5 modern improvement is "a 
species of thraldom unfit for a free country," he had declared in his 
first book. 14 This kind of political analogy had been even from the 
beginning of the century a feature of discussion of gardening so 
much so that Nikolaus Pevsner declares that <f Whig is the first source 
of the landscape garden," and tells us that the landscape garden was 
"conceived in England, because it is the garden of liberalism." 15 I. 
de Wolfe goes further, and makes an effort to relate picturesque the- 
ory to the political background in such a way as to be able to use the 
terminology of politics for discussion of landscape. 16 But really, the 

242 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

appeal to the British constitution is a mere rhetorical trick, whether 
it appears in Knight, in Price, or in Repton. All of these men are 
literal-minded; none makes dialectical assimilations of politics to 
aesthetics or vice versa. Such arguments have no real conviction for 
them and are mere polemical brickbats 5 they are rationalizations, 
not intellectual causes, and they are never the principal arguments 
relied upon, but are makeweights thrown in to overwhelm already 
staggering opponents. To stress them is to equivocate with terms 
and to distort picturesque theory. 

The second of the principal divisions of Repton's Letter defends 
clump and belt, the most conspicuous features of Brown's style. The 
question of the clump is merely one of means, as Repton states 
it: the clump is the simplest way of producing a group in future. 
Price, however, denies that Brown ever "made a clump like a natural 
group, though he did make many natural groups like clumps"; 17 
the inference is that he preferred distinctness to connection, and "it 
is by means of this system of making every thing distinct and separate, 
that Mr. Brown has been enabled to do such rapid and extensive 
mischief; and thence it is that he is so much more an object of the 
painter's indignation than his strait-lined predecessors." 18 Repton's 
defense of the belt, too, rests upon expediency. Man loves seclusion 
and safety: the park must be enclosed. He loves liberty: the pale 
must not show. The belt gives the reality of enclosure with the de- 
ceptive appearance of freedom. Price, instead, is inclined to suppose 
the belt adopted from vanity in the owners (to conceal the size of 
a small estate, or display that of a large) and laziness in the im- 
provers (since it is a formula applied without regard to particular 
circumstances of composition). It is of interest that on clumps and 
belts at least, Price and Repton drew together as Repton's interest 
in the garden and his appreciation of picturesque effect increased. 
Repton even comes to sneer at the "trim imitators of Brown's de- 
fects," and to refer contemptuously to "the spruce modern seat of 
sudden affluence, be-belted, and be-clumfed in the newest style of 
the modern taste of landscape gardening. . . ." 19 This coincidence 
of opinion is not an identity, however, for Repton was contracting 
the pleasure grounds into a garden while Price (though formalizing 
them near the house) was transforming them into a forest park. 

Having written this much, Repton determined on having his letter 
printed, and accordingly returned to the attack on the painter- 
gardener. He warns against amateurs "quacking" themselves; he 
contradistinguishes the prospect, in which everybody delights, from 

The Price-Repton Controversy 243 

the landscape, or painter's subject, and proclaims the love of prospect 
to be "an inherent passion of the human mind" 5 20 he decides that 
painting and gardening are not sister arts but congenial natures 
brought together like man and wife (the controversy reaches its most 
banal) 5 he suggests that (as a man may from habit prefer tobacco 
to sugar) Knight and Price "are in the habits of admiring fine pic- 
tures, and both live amidst bold and picturesque scenery," which 
may, he tells them, "have rendered you insensible to the beauty 
of those milder scenes that have charms for common observers . . . 
your palate certainly requires a degree of 'irritation' rarely to be 
expected in garden scenery, and, I trust, the good sense and good 
taste of this country will never be led to despise the comfort of a 
gravel walk, the delicious fragrance of a shrubbery, the soul expand- 
ing delight of a wide extended prospect, or a view down a steep 
hill, because they are all subjects incapable of being painted." 21 
Price humorlessly takes up each of Repton's points, in which it will 
not be necessary to follow him. His discussion of prospects, however, 
is ingenious. A prospect is distinguished from a landscape, from a 
composition suitable for a picture, in that the foreground and second 
distance are absent or minimal. The question arises, why prospects 
are enchanting in nature, though unsuited for painting? The reason 
Price alleges is that painted prospects "are not real, and therefore 
do not excite the curiosity which reality does, both as to the particular 
spots, and the circumstances attending them . . ."5 22 Price might 
well have granted also the sublimity of prospect. One of the circum- 
stances the curious eye remarks in a prospect is, of course, the com- 
position of those parts which make separate pictures. Gilpin, too, 
found this fascination in the prospect $ after describing a various and 
extensive scene, spoiled by transfer to canvas, Gilpin sings, 

Yet why (methinks I hear 
Some Critic say) do ample scenes, like this, 
In picture fail to flease; when every eye 
Confesses they transport on Nature's chart? 

Why, but because, where She displays the scene, 
The roving sight can fause, and swift select, 
From all she offers, farts, whereon to fix, 
And form distinct ^perceptions; each of which 
Presents a separate picture. Thus as bees 
Condense within their hives the varying sweets; 
So does the eye a lovely whole collect 
From parts disjointed; nay, ferhap, deformed. 23 

244 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

Since the painted panorama is seen at one coup d y oed> the picturesque 
eye can not from it select such separate compositions. 

To the refutation of Repton's objections Price appends a review 
of the whole question of the difference and mixture of the picturesque 
and the beautiful. For he feels about Repton's criticisms as most 
philosophical writers feel about the arguments of their opponents, 
that confusion has enveloped the subject from the uncertain and 
licentious use of words. The central term, "beauty," may signify 
comprehensively "all that allures, attracts, or pleases the eye in 
every style," 24 through the grand principle of union, harmony, 
connection, breadth, congruity; or it may have the narrower Burkeian 
sense as opposed to sublimity and the picturesque. The analogy of 
aesthetical and ethical language is again stressed 5 like "beauty," 
"virtue" has both a broad, inclusive sense, and a narrow sense re- 
ferring to the most valued qualities in men (courage) and women 
(chastity). The analytical separation and practical blending of beauti- 
ful and picturesque are illustrated by some of Price's most luscious 
description. Even the topic of gravel walks and mown lawns is given 
a luminosity and order when drawn under Price's apparatus of terms 
and distinctions. 

In a letter to the publisher Robson, granting permission for his 
Letter to Price to be reprinted in Price's answer, Repton speaks of 
adding an Appendix to "the first volume of my great work" in which 
"I shall more fully enter into the question between Mr. Knight, 
Mr. Price, Mr. Brown & myself. . . ." 25 As late as December 24, 
1794, then (Repton misdates his copy of the letter 1795), Repton 
had not added the seventh chapter (against Knight) or the Appendix 
(against Price). But these additions, once made, add little to this 
exposition, for they have been canvassed in the treatment of Repton's 
scheme as a whole. He complains of Price's alleged idea-thieving 5 
mentions the controversy over painting 3 proclaims his agreement 
with Price on artificial water (though eight years later he was to 
declare that "Mr. Price has written an Essay to describe the practical 
manner of finishing the banks of artificial water: but I confess, 
after reading it with much attention, I despair of making any prac- 
titioner comprehend his meaning . - ." 26 ) j defends Brown against 
misrepresentation 5 enters into the sources of pleasure in landscape 
gardening, neg;lect of some of which had misled Price and Knight 5 
and, finally, prints a letter on gardening by William Windham. This 
piece of Windham's says in little almost all that Repton had said at 
length; the key proposition is that "places are not to be laid out with 

The Price-Rep ton Controversy 245 

a view to their appearance in a picture, but to their uses, and the en- 
joyment of them in real life; and their conformity to those purposes 
is that which constitutes their beauty. . . ." 27 So far as the contro- 
versy stems from principle rather than personality, this is that prin- 
ciple which lies at its root. 

The Observations on Theory and Practice contain a few sections 
devoted to the controversy; Repton has softened little, and still tilts 
at windmills in reading "picturesque" as "pictorial." Behind the 
scenes of this logomachy, however, the combatants speak well of one 
another, and the differences over which they cut and slash in print 
they gloss over in correspondence. Repton declares to Robson that he 
"received so much pleasure in perusing Mr. Price's work & am so 
charmed with the animation of his Stile and manner, that I shall not 
be sorry to have provoked this kind of sparring, so long as we both 
keep our muffles on our hand & our buttons on the points of our 
foils." 28 When Price concludes his published Letter in a spirit of ac- 
commodation, excusing "occasional asperity" on the grounds that "he 
who writes a formal challenge, must not expect a billet-doux in re- 
turn," and avouching that "whatever sharpness there may be in my 
style, there is no rancour in my heart," 29 Repton replied with gener- 
osity, candidly acknowledging that "the difference in our opinions is 
by no means so great, as we either of us pretend in our publick con- 
troversy. . . ." 30 

There was little personal animosity between Price and Repton, not- 
withstanding the harsh sarcasms they leveled at one another in 
print, but towards Knight, I think, Repton did at first feel real re- 
sentment for the affront offered in The Landscape (of which more 
hereafter). When it became clear, after publication of the Analytical 
Inquiry in 1805, that there was an intellectual rift between neighbors 
Price and Knight, Repton naturally sided with Price. From the first 
he had felt that there was "a shade of difference betwixt the opinions 
of Mr. Price and Mr. Knight, which seems to have arisen from the 
different characters of their respective places; Foxley is less romantic 
than Downton, and therefore Mr. Price is less extravagant in his 
ideas, and more willing to allow some little sacrifice of picturesque 
beauty to neatness, near the house. . . ." 31 But the Analytical In- 
quiry's critique of Price allows Repton to regard him as a fellow vic- 
tim to the severity of Knight's criticism. In the Fragments on the 
Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Repton's last book, 
the references to Price are mostly favorable; Repton makes inciden- 
tal appeal to Price as to an authority whose concurrence lends weight 

246 Beautijul) Sublime y and Picturesque 

to his own opinion, 32 and even quotes Price's Ciceronian motto, 
"Quam multa vident pictores in umbris et in eminentiis, quae nos 
non videmus." 33 Most curiously, in writing on Stanage Park, Rep- 
ton remarks that a the opposite opinions of two gentlemen in its vi- 
cinity [a footnote identifies Price and Knight] have produced that 
controversy in which I have endeavoured to become a moderator." 34 
This is not quite the role in which we recall him! 


'Richard "Payne Anight 

rr\HE LANDSCAPE, a Didactic Poem in Three Books. Ad- 
JL dressed to Uvedale Price, Esq., appeared early in 1794, the 
first manifesto of the picturesque controversy. Richard Payne Knight, 
its author, was a scholar and connoisseur with an enthusiasm for the 
picturesque and a knack for didactic poetry in the manner of Pope. 1 
Knight was prominent in the Society of Dilettanti and one of the 
principals in the Elgin marbles controversy ; his collection of antique 
coins and bronzes is today the basis of the British Museum's holdings 5 
and he had the most valuable collection of Claudes in Europe. Down- 
ton Castle, which he himself designed, and his park along the pictur- 
esque Teme in Shropshire are among the showplaces of England. And 
Knight has as well some claim to the title of philosopher, partly for 
his system-building, 2 but surely for the keenness of his insight into 
human motives. The tangential dissertations on happiness, love, 
morals, government dissertations scattered through both The Land- 
scape and the Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste inter- 
rupt continuity and shatter organization, but the works would be less 
rich without them. Knight conjoins the urbane cynicism of Gibbon 
with a sympathy genuine though not mawkish 5 and his thoughts on 
political society, religion, marriage skeptical, tolerant, just exhibit 
a mind distinguished in its balance of polished intellect with un- 
forced feeling. 

The Landscape was a highly entertaining work and enjoyed a fa- 
vorable reception & reception which roused a host of defenders of 
the old order. The Landscape is, of course, primarily concerned with 
inculcation of a certain taste in gardening rather than with exposition 
of a system of aesthetics 3 but that taste involves implications and as- 
sumptions of immense importance. Empirical aesthetics are perhaps 
always best grasped in their application to visible objects, and espe- 


o^8 Beautijul, Sublime, and Picturesque 

daily to natural objects which involve few complicating factors. The 
theory of landscape gardening, an art which heightens and simplifies 
the effects of natural scenery without introducing artistic materials 
of its own, is thus an excellent introduction to the problems of aes- 

But I need not justify further the inclusion of The Landscape in 
this study. The opening argument and invocation have the faintly 
ironical flavor which pervades much of the poem: 

How best to bid the verdant Landscape rise. 

To please the fancy, and delight the eyes; 

Its various farts In harmony to join 

With art clandestine, and conceaPd design; 

T* adorn, arrange, to serrate, and select 5 

With secret skill, and- counterfeit neglect; 

I sing. Do thoUy O Price, the song attend; 

Instruct the 'poet, and assist the jnend: 

Teach him 'plain truth in numbers to express, 

And shew its charms through fiction's flow'ry dress. I0 

The opposition of fancy and sensation (in the second verse) is of 
fundamental importance for Knight, whose aesthetics connects a the- 
ory of the direct nervous action of color and light with an elaborate 
assodational psychology. It reappears in the statement of the first 
principle of taste: 

'Tis still one 'principle through all extends, 35 

And leads through different ways to different ends 

*Tis just congruity of farts combined 

To please the sense, and satisfy the mind. 4 

This congruity is not to be delimited by arbitrary rules, whether in 
painting or in landscape gardening: 

Nature in all rejects the j>edan$ chain; J 4 

Which binding beauty in its waving line, 

Destroys the charm it vainly would define; 

For nature still irregular and free, 

Acts not by lines, but general sympathy. 

The true rules for gardening are illustrated by a pronouncement 
on approaches: 

First fix the faints to which you wish to go; 
Then let your easy 'path spontaneous flow; 

Richard Payne Knight 249 

With no affected turn or artful bendy J 55 

To lead you round still farther from the end: 
For, as the fnncifle of taste is sense, 
Whatever is void of meaning gives offence. 

It was to this passage that Knight appended a note on Repton's Red 
Book for Tatton; having read Repton as urging that the family arms 
might be placed on neighboring milestones. Knight subjects this 
gratification of "purse-proud vanity" to excoriating satire. Repton, 
naturally enough, was embittered, and added a chapter of defense 
and rebuttal, "Concerning Approaches $ with Some Remarks on the 
Affinity Betwixt Painting and Gardening," to his Sketches and, Hints. 
Quoting at length from the Red Book of Tatton, and from others of 
his reports, he defends himself pretty successfully against the charge 
of catering to the pride of conspicuous magnificence. It was perhaps a 
little pompous to suggest erecting distance markers with the family 
arms (not, as Knight read it, using the turnpike milestones for the 
purpose) 5 but Repton is free of the desire to establish vast estates for 
solitary splendor. More and more, as we have seen, he urged limit- 
ing the size of parks, and advised that the public be admitted to en- 
liven them. He is, it is true, desirous of perpetuating a hierarchy of 
ranks and classes 5 but Knight and Price, Whigs though they be, share 
this preference. 

True taste, as Knight declares, reveals its stores cautiously: 

Its greatest art is aptly to conceal; 

To lead > with secret guile, the frying sight 

To where component fat ts may best unite. 

And jorm one beauteous, nicely blended whole, J 9S 

To charm the eye and captivate the soul. 

Two plates illustrate application of this principle to landscaping 5 one 
exhibits a severely Palladian house set in a shaven lawn with an af- 
fected Chinese bridge carrying a serpentining approach every part 
hard and distinct 5 the other shows an intricate Tudor Gothic house 
half-buried in a wilderness, with shaggy foreground and roughhewn 
rustic bridge the "beauteous whole" of harmonious and pictur- 
esque connection. Repton (with some justice) thinks the two scenes 
"serve rather to exemplify bad taste in the two extremes of artificial 
neatness and wild neglect," and the rustic bridge (copied, in fact, 
from one on Knight's estate) "looks like the miserable expedient of 
poverty, or a ridiculous affectation of rural simplicity." 3 

Knight (we return tp The Landscape} thinks to develop prin- 

250 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

ciples for gardening by analyzing the three distances of painting. 
Hence, he cries, 

Hence let us learn, in real scenes, to trace 

The true ingredients of the fainter* s grace; 2 5& 


But ah! in vain: see yon fantastic band. 

With charts, pedometers, and rules in hand, 

Advance triumphant, and alike lay waste 

The forms of nature, and the works of taste! 

T'imfrove, adorn, and polish, they profess; z6 $ 

But shave the goddess, whom they come to dress; 

Hence, hence! thou haggard fiend, however caWd, 
Thin, meagre genius of the bare and bald; 

Thy spade and mattock here at length lay down, 28 5 

And follow to the tomb thy jav'rite Brown. . . . 

This attack on Brown called forth Repton in defense 5 "the whole," 
he says, "of that false and mistaken theory, which Mr. Knight en- 
deavours to introduce, by confounding the two ideas [of park and 
forest], proceeds from not duly considering the degree of affinity be- 
twixt painting and gardening. . . ." 4 We need not examine again 
the opinions of Repton on this vexed question 5 but Repton did not 
spring alone to the defense of the art of Capability Brown. William 
Marshall and George Mason, practical gardeners both, wrote elabo- 
rate replies to The Landscape and to Price's Essay on the Picturesque. 
And John Matthews struck off a parody, A Sketch -from the Land- 
scape, matching verse for verse. Knight's adjuration to improvers to 
follow their master Brown to the tomb suggested Matthews' title-page 
vignette, which exhibits a fashionably dressed gentleman discharging 
the contents of a chamber pot at a tomb inscribed CAPABILITY. 
Around the tomb a half-dozen improvers, equipped with spade, 
scythe, and roller, are spattered with the discharge and fall away 
holding their noses, &c. Matthews' ironical comment: 

Death has mown thee [Brown] his heavy paw 
Has swept thee down his deep ha-ha, 

Thou great dejacer of the nation! 
Well did he use his scythe and broom! 
And now, with glee, upon thy tomb 

Pll four a suitable libation? 

Richard Payne Knight 251 

Another vignette at end illustrates the closing apostrophe: 

Triumphant KNIGHT! to give thy name 
A fassfort to immortal jame, 

What shall the grateful world agree on? 

Thy statue of Colossal size. 

In ductile yew, shall nobly rise 

(Think not thy modesty shall 'scafe us) 
The God of Gardens thou shalt stand. 
To fright improvers from the land, 

A huge and terrible Pnapus. 6 

The vignette is a caricature of a formal garden, with knotted par- 
terre, topiary work, and a cypress avenue, facing the avenue and back 
to us is the yew statue of Knight; two ladies are turning away in 
confusion (a statue of Priapus, recall). This allusion is a clever but 
rather cruel stroke 5 it refers, of course, to Knight's Account of the 
Remains of the Worship of Priapus, a book generations ahead of its 
age in understanding of sexual symbolism, which brought on Knight's 
head a storm of abuse for alleged obscenity and infidelity. 

Knight's mockery of improvers for "shaving Nature" is in its 
turn mocked: 

How croft and shorn foor Nature looks! 

How could these blockheads at her toilet 
Shave such a charming head, and sfoil itl 

Shave y then, no more y good friends > but friz 
The lovely locks round Nature's fhiz. . . J 

Again, with the misunderstanding which Hearne's engraving was 
likely to suggest and entrenched interest to adopt, Matthews cries, 

That man should walk, can Nature mean y 
On frim-rolPd gravel fringed with green? 

No if I rightly understand her! 
'Midst brambles thick Fd rather chuse 
To trudge in dirt above my shoes. 

Than in such serpentines meander! 8 

Book II of The Landscape is introduced by celebration of the 
andent system of formal gardening 

252 Beautiful^ Sublime, and Picturesque 

Ojt when I've seen some lonely mansion stand y 

Fresh from th? improver's desolating hand) 

'Midst shaven lawns, that jar around it creef 

In one eternal undulating sweep; 

And scattered clumpy that nod at one another, 5 

Each stiffly waving to its formal brother; 

Tir*d with th? extensive scene, so dull and bare. 

To Heav*n devoutly I've addressed my fray'r, 

Again the moss-grown terraces to raise. 

And spread the labyrinth 3 s ferflexing maze; 10 

Replace in even lines the ductile yew, 

And flant again the ancient avenue. 

Some feature then, at least, we should obtain, 

To mark this flat, insijnd, waving plain; 

Some vary'd tints and forms would intervene, *5 

To break this uniform, eternal green? 

This exordium is followed by development of principles of com- 
position for the new picturesque park and by oft-quoted lines on pic- 
turesque buildings 

Bless* d is the man, in whose sequestered glade, 
Some ancient abbess walls diffuse their shade; 2 55 

With mould* nng windows perc'd, and turrets crown'd, 
And ^pinnacles with clinging ivy bound. 

Blessed too is he, who, 'midst his tufted trees, 
Some ruined castle's lofty towers sees; 

Imbosom'd high upon the mountains brow, 2 6 

Or nodding o'er the stream that glides below. 

Nor yet unenvy'd, to whose humbler lot 
Falls the retired and antiquated cot; 
Its roof with weeds and mosses covered o'er, 

Still hamper he (if conscious of his <prize) 
Who sees some temple's broken columns rise, 

'Midst sculftuSd fragments, shivered by their fall, 270 

And totfring remnants of its marble wall; 
Where ev'ry beauty of correct design, 
And vary'd elegance of art, combine 
With nature's softest tints, matured by time, 
And the warm influence of a genial clime, 275 

This second book concludes with an account of the purity of taste 
among the Greeks, 10 its destruction by Roman tyranny and Christian 
bigotry, and the revival in the Renaissance; 

Richard Payne Knight 253 

Reviv'd again, in Charles 3 and Leo's days. 

Art dawned unsteady } with reflected rays; 

Lost all the general 'principle of grace > 4 j o 

And warring fancy left to take its flace; 

But yet y in these degenerate days, it shone 

With one perfection, e*en to Greece unknown: 

Nature's aerial tints and fleeting dyes, 

Old Titian first imbody'd to the eyes; 4*5 

And taught the tree to spread its light array 

In mimic colours, and on canvas flay. 

Next Rubens came, and cater? d in colours bright 

The flickering flashes of celestial light; 

But both their merits, $olish y d and refin'd 

By toil and care, in patient Claude were joined: 

Natures own fupil, faifrite child of taste! 

Whose pencil, like Lysipfus* chisel, traced 4 2 5 

Visions nice errors, and, with feign'd neglect, 

Sunk partial jorm in general effect. 

This peculiar merit of modern painting is the picturesque, the har- 
monious blending of tints and lights which constitutes the direct 
pleasure of the sense of sight. The Landscape, while not a treatise 
on aesthetics, was yet deliberately calculated to cultivate the tastes 
which Knight's theory, already formed, justified and demanded. Even 
in the Sicilian diary of 1777 are passages containing the germ of 
Knight's theory. On April 13 of that year, Knight writes of the ruins 
at Paestum, "The colour is a whitish yellow, which merges here and 
there into shades of greyish blue. The weather has attacked the stone, 
which is overgrown with moss and weeds, and neither blackened by 
smoke, nor rendered hideous by recent additions, as is the wont of 
ruins at Rome. Thus it is that the tints affect the eye in a fashion at 
once harmonious, pleasing, and picturesque. 33 u "Affect the eye," 
"harmonious," and "picturesque" are all susceptible here of the 
technical analysis given in the Analytical Inquiry. 

The final book of The Landscape, on trees, is logically only a 
pendant to the second and need not detain us. Gilpin, who had given 
an analysis of trees and shrubs, their groupings and accompaniments, 
in his Remarks on Forest Scenery, dwelt chiefly on line and form; 
Knight, consistently with his theory of the picturesque, operates more 
in terms of light and color. His prescriptions, like those of Price, are 

254 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

free of academic mannerism, he celebrates the beauties of native 

Nor [he warns], $lac y d beneath our cool and wat'ry sky, 
Attempt the glowing tints of Italy: $ 10 

For thus comfelPd in mem'ry to confide, 
Or blindly follow some preceding guide, 
One common track it [art] still pursues, 
And crudely copies what it never views. . . . 

It is not imitation of Italian landscape, real or painted, that is re- 
quired, but independent composition on picturesque principles. 

When a second edition of The Landscape was called for in 1795, 
Knight added a note which, after dealing an incidental blow to Repton 
for his Letter to Price, undertook the subversion of Price's radical 
distinction of beautiful and picturesque. Repton, "taking advantage 
of a supposed distinction between the picturesque and the beautiful," 
maintains that "his art was never intended to produce landscapes, but 
some kind of neat, simple, and elegant ejects, or non-descnpt 
beauties, which have not yet been named or classed. ... I cannot, 
however [Knight declares], but think that the distinction of which 
this ingenious professor has thus taken advantage, is an imaginary 
one, and that the picturesque is merely that kind of beauty which 
belongs exclusively to the sense of vision -, or to the imagination, 
guided by that sense." 12 This is the thesis of the note to The Land- 
scape, and this is the thesis of the Analytical Inquiry into the Prin- 
ciples of Taste a decade later, so far as that work relates to the pic- 

In the Introduction to the Analytical Inquiry, "Containing a Scep- 
tical View of the Subject," Knight develops with some subtlety the 
uncertainty and instability of every standard. Since taste is a ques- 
tion of feeling rather than of reason, the only standard is the general- 
ity of feeling; yet no values are really general, and every age rejects 
the values of the preceding. "The word Beauty," Knight observes, 
"is a general term of approbation, of the most vague and extensive 
meaning, applied indiscriminately to almost every thing that is 
pleasing, either to the sense, the imagination, or the understanding j 
whatever the nature of it be, whether a material substance, a moral 
excellence, or an intellectual theorem." 13 All these applications of 
the term, moreover, are literal, notwithstanding that "all epithets, 
employed to distinguish qualities perceivable only by intellect, were 
originally applied to objects of sense . . . and are therefore applied 

Richard Payne Knight 255 

transitively, though not always figuratively, to objects of intellect 
or imagination." 14 Whether applied to virtue or the human form, 
"beauty" signifies the result of balance and proportion. But these 
"proportions" are not truly the same; "I admit/' Knight con- 
tinues, ". . . that the word Beauty entirely changes its mean- 
ing . . . accordingly as it is applied to objects of the senses, the im- 
agination, or the understanding; for, though these faculties are so 
mixed and compounded in their operations, in the complicated mind 
of civilized man, that it is extremely difficult to discriminate them 
accurately $ yet the pleasures of each, though mixed in their effects, 
are utterly distinct in their causes." 15 

It is this analysis of the faculties which permits Knight to get be- 
yond the expression of personal preferences. The three parts of the 
Analytical Inquiry are devoted to sensation, the association of ideas 
(comprehending knowledge or Improved Perception," "Imagina- 
tion," and "Judgment"), and the passions. The appropriateness of 
this particular psychology will be examined later j what is to be noted 
here is the advance such an approach represents over that of Price. 
One of the difficulties in Price's analysis, and one which has left Price 
exposed to much misunderstanding, is the confusion in which the psy- 
chological mechanisms underlying the aesthetic characters are left. 
In Knight, the analysis is conducted entirely in terms of the faculties 
involved in aesthetic experience, so that (whatever errors may be 
made in the conduct of the analysis) the argument always differenti- 
ates clearly the various causes involved. 

Analysis naturally proceeds from the simple to the complex, and 
Knight begins, accordingly, with the senses, and with those least com- 
pounded with the higher faculties taste, then smell and touch. Hav- 
ing ascertained the principles of sensation generally, Knight can then 
move to the senses of sight and hearing, "whose objects are the 
proper objects of taste in the more general sense of the word, as used 
to signify a general discriminative faculty arising from just feeling 
and correct judgment implanted in the mind of man by his Creator, 
and improved by exercise, study, and meditation." 16 

Knight was pretty well read in British philosophy as far as Reid. 
He follows Berkeley and Hume in rejecting the special status of pri- 
mary qualities, but not in what he supposed to be Berkeley's denial 
of the material world and Hume's denial of the intellectual uni- 
verse as well. To escape these supposed conclusions of skepticism, 
Knight emphasizes a set of distinctions familiar enough to readers in 
the Scottish philosophy. "All its [skepticism's] wandering clouds of 

256 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

confusion and perplexity," he says, "seem to have arisen from em- 
ploying the Greek word idea, sometimes in its proper sense to signify 
a mental image or vision, and sometimes in others the most adverse 
and remote, to signify 'perception, remembrance, notion, knowledge, 
and almost every other operation, or result of operation, of which 
the mind is capable." 17 Thus, we have a ferception of an object mov- 
ing when we see or feel it (and even this is more than the sensation), 
and a remembrance afterwards 5 of the motion of the earth we have 
a notion "acquired by comparative deductions from other percep- 
tions" $ of motion in general we have only general knowledge ab- 
stracted from all the above. Objects and their qualities exist really, 
and by experience we learn that they are the causes of sensations 
though the sensations do not resemble them. But mere sensation 
a modification of the sense-organ is different from the perception 
in the mind, and this difference is crucial for aesthetics. 

Much of the later doctrine is a consequence of the remarks on 
taste and smell, remarks which are carefully selected, however scat- 
tered in appearance. The doctrine is, that the sense-organs, like other 
animal parts, are irritable, a certain degree of irritation being always 
kept up by ordinary vital processes. This normal irritation may be 
increased or decreased by external impressions, or its modes may be 
changed 3 "but how these changes take place ... is beyond the 
reach of human faculties to discover. All that we know is, that cer- 
tain modes of irritation produce sensations, which are pleasant, and 
others, sensations which are unpleasant 5 that there must be a certain 
degree of it to produce either $ and that, beyond a certain degree, all 
are painful." 18 The influence of custom and that of novelty are 
readily allowed for; with an acuteness and a cynicism altogether 
characteristic, Knight remarks that "the case is, that all those tastes, 
which are natural, lose, and all those which are unnatural, acquire 
strength by indulgence: for no strained or unnatural action of the 
nerves can ever be so assimilated to their constitutional modes of ex- 
istence, as not to produce, on every re-application of its cause, a 
change sufficient to excite a pleasing irritation. . . ." 19 In this the- 
ory, essentially the same pleasure results from an increase in deficient 
irritation and from a diminution of excessive irritation, whereas in 
Burke's nervous physiology there are two distinct modes of agree- 
able sensation, according as the nerves are relaxed below their nor- 
mal tension ("pleasure") or allowed to approach normality from 
painful distention ("delight"). Knight's theory does not readily ac- 
commodate two modes of pleasure in this way, and the result is disso- 

Richard Payne Knight 257 

lution of Burke's dichotomy of sublime and beautiful. "Among the 
pleasures of sense, more particularly among those belonging to 
touch," Knight postulates, "there is a certain class, which, though 
arising from negative causes, are nevertheless real and positive 
pleasures: as when we gradually sink from any violent or excessive 
degree of action or irritation into a state of tranquillity and re- 
pose . . . but why the sensation caused by the ascent of the scale 
[of intensity] should be called pleasure, and that caused by its de- 
scent, delight, as distinguished by an eminent writer, I cannot dis- 
cover." 20 

Burke's beauty, of which the leading trait is smoothness, is also re- 
jected by Knight, and found to depend upon "mistake of a particular 
sexual sympathy for a general principle," through association of 
ideas. Abstracted from such sympathies, the pleasures of touch arise 
from gentle irritation. One of Knight's crotchets is the tracing out 
of the influence of sexual associations on art and rejecting what 
comes from this origin as aesthetic only in inferior degree. 

It is in the treatment of sight that Knight is most strikingly orig- 
inal. The sensual pleasure of the organs of sight depends, Knight 
finds, on the same principle which governs the pleasure of the other 
senses "that is, upon a moderate and varied irritation of the or- 
ganic nerves." 21 Knight insists that this irritation of the eye is a 
function of light and color only. The connection of color and light 
with distance and magnitude is of course learned by experience with 
touch; and by the same token, smoothness is no source of pleasure to 
the eye as such: 

Smoothness being properly a quality perceivable only by the touch, and 
applied metaphorically to the objects of the other senses, we often apply 
it very improperly to those of vision; assigning smoothness, as a cause 
of visible beauty, to things, which, though smooth to the touch, cast 
the most sharp, harsh, and angular reflections of light upon the eye; 
and these reflections are all that the eye feels or naturally perceives. 
. . . Such are all objects of cut glass or polished metal; as may be 
seen by the manner in which painters imitate them; for, as the imita- 
tions of painting extend only to the visible qualities of bodies, they show 
those visible qualities fairly and impartially distinct from all others, 
which the habitual concurrence of other senses has joined with them 
in the mind, in our perceptions of them in nature. 22 

Visible beauty, that which gives organic pleasure to the eye, consists 
in "harmonious, but yet brilliant and contrasted combinations of 
light, shade, and colour 5 blended, but not confused; and broken, but 

258 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

not cut, into masses: and it is not peculiarly in straight or curve, taper 
or spiral, long or short, little or great objects, that we are to seek for 
these 5 but in such as display to the eye intricacy of parts and variety 
of tint and surface." 23 Such are shaggy animals, irregular trees, 
moldering ruins in short, all that Price had described as picturesque. 
Picturesque because "painting, as it imitates only the visible qualities 
of bodies, separates those qualities from all others 5 which the habitual 
concurrence and co-operation of the other senses have mixt and 
blended with them, in our ordinary perceptions. . . . The imitative 
deceptions of this art unmask the habitual deceptions of sight . . . 
by showing that mere modifications upon one flat surface can exhibit 
to the eye the semblance of various projecting bodies at different de- 
grees of distance from each other. . . ." 24 

This, then, is Knight's conception of the simple picturesque (there 
is also a picturesque dependent on association of ideas, of which here- 
after) : ( j) the pleasure of the eye is wholly in broken and gradated 
light and color, and (2) the art of painting separates this aspect of 
visible things from all others associated with it in practical experi- 
ence. Painting can effect such dissociation because it is devoted to 
pleasure only, so that utility, propriety, splendor, and such do not 
influence us to accept those harsh oppositions of color which may 
please in actuality or in practical arts. Intellect and imagination are 
immensely predominant even in painting 5 "in the higher class of 
landscapes, whether in nature or in art, the mere sensual gratifica- 
tion of the eye is comparatively so small, as scarcely to be attended 
to: but yet, if there occur a single spot . . . offensively harsh and 
glaring ... all the magic instantly vanishes, and the imagination 
avenges the injury offered to the sense." 25 

This conception of the picturesque affords a neat solution to the 
perennial problem, why pictured imitations of the ugly or offensive 
may please, and are therefore (in Knight's language) beautiful. 
Painting separates qualities pleasing to the eye, dissociating from those 
qualities displeasing to the other senses, or perhaps the understand- 
ing or imagination as well. It is clear also how Burke's erroneous 
notion of making beauty consist in the smooth and undulating should 
lead a man of taste like Price to discover such beauty to be insipid. 
Price proposed to remedy this insipidity by mixing "picturesqueness" 
with the "beauty." But though the taste thus displayed is correct, 
there is a confusion of terms from "attaching to the word beauty 
those ideas, which the rest of mankind attach to the word insipidity j 
and those, which the rest of mankind attach to the word beauty, to 

Richard Payne Knight 259 

this nameless amalgamation, which he conceives to be an improve- 
ment of it. The difference is merely a difference of words. . . ." 26 
Not quite; there is a difference in the psychology supposed by the 

Thus far, Knight has been operating in the mode of Burke, how- 
ever different his doctrine is from that of Burke 5 he has developed 
a theory essentially physical rather than mental, a theory of impres- 
sions unassociated rather than a theory of ideas associated. In this 
view, Knight's work is reactionary, for writing after Alison, he at- 
tempts to restore the senses as avenues of direct aesthetic feeling. But 
this is only a part, and not the principal part, of Knight's aesthetics. 
Part II of the Analytical Inquiry is devoted to the association of 
ideas. The most elementary mode of association is "improved per- 
ception" that, for instance, by which modifications of light and color 
inform us of distances. But improved perception extends beyond 
such universally acquired and automatic habits 3 the ability to sepa- 
rate the elements of a complex impression and compare them with 
ideas already fixed in the mind produces the skill of a winetaster, 
and also enjoyment of the arts as imitation, as expression, as virtu- 
osity. In all these instances the perception is in appearance the mere 
result of the sensations, but in reality is the consequence of knowl- 
edge applied automatically to the sensations as signs of non-sensory 
qualities, or as signs of qualities belonging properly to the other 

The arts can be classified according as they afford immediate sen- 
sory pleasure or please only through improved perception. "Sculp- 
ture and poetry require order and regularity: painting and music de- 
light in wild and irregular variety 5 sculpture and poetry, too, are 
addressed entirely to the imagination and the passions 3 while paint- 
ing and music are, in a degree, addressed to the organs of sight and 
hearing, and calculated to produce pleasures merely sensual." 27 The 
point is clear as regards sculpture, for sculpture is imitation of form, 
and visual pleasure results from color and light j the lights and shad- 
ows of sculpture are regular, and either too much or too little broken 
to suit painting or to please the eye. The case of prosody is rather 
different, for poetry is expressive rather than imitative. "Poetry," 
Knight declares, "is the language of inspiration, and consequently 
of enthusiasm j and it appears to me that a methodical arrangement 
of the sound into certain equal or corresponding portions, called 
verses ... is absolutely necessary to sustain that steady rapidity of 
utterance and exaltation above the ordinary tone of common speech 5 

260 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

which alone can give a continued character of enthusiastic expression 
to any extensive composition." 2S This view of prosody leads Knight 
to criticize sharply the English blank verse, which often requires so 
much inversion to distinguish it from prose that rapidity of flow is 
lost, and especially the use of that verse by Milton. 29 Knight's ob- 
servations on the musical quality of poetry are keen, and he shows 
by a neat application of the Method of Agreement that the melody of 
verse does not depend upon the sound, for modern Europeans, each 
mispronouncing Latin according to the fashion of his own nation, 
agree fully on the correctness or incorrectness of Latin verses ; these 
points must be recognized not by the ear, then, since that hears a dif- 
ferent pattern in each language, but by accurate memory and ready 
discernment, which operate so automatically that they "dupe the ear 
through the medium of the imagination." 30 This is improved per- 
ception, not a determination of the sense itself but an effect of knowl- 
edge unconsciously employing the sensations as signs. 

Thus far Knight has dealt with those assodations which so fuse 
with the sensations exciting them that only by philosophy can we 
learn to dissociate the elements of the resulting perceptions. The next 
step is examination of associations which do not so fuse with the or- 
ganic sensations 5 accordingly, "Of Imagination" is the second chap- 
ter of this part on association, a chapter forming perhaps a quarter of 
the entire treatise. This kind of association may attach to either natural 
or artificial objects, or to the former through the medium of the 
latter. To a mind enriched with trains of ideas drawn from the pro- 
ductions of the arts, not only art works but all the objects of nature 
and society may afford gratifications through association with such 
ideas and imagery. "Of this description are the objects and circum- 
stances called picturesque: for, except in the instances, before ex- 
plained, of pleasing effects of colour, light, and shadow, they afford 
no pleasure, but to persons conversant with the art of painting, and 
sufficiently skilled in it to distinguish, and be really delighted with its 
real excellences." 31 

Like Price, Knight labors the etymology of "picturesque" and 
draws this etymology into conformity with his system, as Price had 
with his. The progress of painting, according to Knight, was from 
exact and distinct imitation of details (which was soon found to be 
rather "copying what the mind knew to be, from the concurrent 
testimony of another sense, than what the eye saw" 32 ), to a more 
truly visual imitation, with massed lights and shadows blended and 

Richard Payne Knight 261 

broken together. Still later, the Venetians and the painters of the Low 

carried this principle of massing to a degree beyond what appears in 
ordinary nature; and departed from the system of strict imitation in a 
contrary extreme to that of their predecessors. Instead of making their 
lines more distinct, and keeping their tints more separate, than the visi- 
ble appearance of the objects of imitation warranted, they blended and 
melted them together with a playful and airy kind of lightness, and a 
sort of loose and sketchy indistinctness not observable in the reality, un- 
less under peculiar circumstances and modifications of the atmosphere; 
and then only in those objects and combinations of objects, which ex- 
hibit blended and broken tints, or irregular masses of light and shadow 
harmoniously melted into each other. 

Such are the objects, and compositions of objects, which we properly 
call picturesque; and we find that the style of painting which distin- 
guished them as such, was invented by Georgione about the beginning, 
and perfected by Titian about the middle of the sixteenth century; soon 
after which the word made its first appearance in the Italian, and, I 
believe, in any language. 33 

In this remarkable passage Knight distinguishes linear and painterly, 
clear and unclear, in the very manner of Wolfflin. And see the conse- 
quences: Knight's treatment of sensation had shown clearly that 
beauty in the strictest sense, as applied to that which is pleasing to 
the sense of sight, consists in broken and blended tints and irregular 
masses of light and shadow harmoniously melted together 5 the 'pic- 
turesque is therefore beautiful in the strictest sense so far as it affects 
the sense, and this beauty is independent of connection with painting, 
although that art drew our attention to it and cultivated our sensi- 
bility. (In that more comprehensive sense of "beauty" which includes 
all that affects intellect and imagination, many picturesque objects 
are, of course, decidedly not beautiful.) But this very relation to 
painting, expressed by the word "picturesque," affords that special 
pleasure from association j picturesque objects "recall to mind the 
imitations, which skill, taste, and genius have produced j and these 
again recall to the mind the objects themselves, and show them 
through an improved medium that of the feeling and discernment 
of a great artist." 34 In this comparison of nature and art, both eye 
and intellect acquire a higher relish for the productions of each. This 
picturesque of association with painting always involves sensual 
beauty, though it may reside in objects distasteful to imagination or 

Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

intellect a flayed carcass, a decaying hovel, &c. Since everything 
capable of representation to advantage in painting is to that extent 
picturesque, no catalog of picturesque objects is possible ; very oppo- 
site styles are, in Knight's sense, picturesque Salvator, Poussin, 
Claude, Rubens, Rembrandt, sometimes even Raphael, are pictur- 
esque. Claude, though, is indeed the "fav'rite child of taste" 5 com- 
bining sensual beauty picturesqueness with powerful imaginative 
appeal, he is for Knight the ideal painter. Knight's theory, it has 
been observed, is a landmark on the road to impressionism, and its 
remote consequence might be the "Interior at Petworth." But 
Turner's last phase would not, I think, be approved by Knight, for 
while the sensual beauty is complete, objects have so dissolved that 
there is less appeal to imagination and intellect 5 Turner's imitations 
of Claude would be, in this system, superior works of art. 

The moldering rum in a Claude landscape is picturesque, and so 
(albeit in less degree) is the magnificent architecture of a Claude 
seaport. The seaport less so, because its tints are more uniform and its 
angles sharper, so that it affords less sensual pleasure 5 and its regular- 
ity, neatness, and congruity are qualities which we associate with the 
term "beauty" not in the strict acceptation (which refers to the 
sense of sight), but in that looser meaning that includes pleasures of 
the imagination and understanding. This tendency to think of the 
cc beautiful" as regular and fresh very naturally appropriates the 
term "picturesque" to objects which, while strictly speaking more 
beautiful to the sense, do not have these qualities. Knight is, we see, 
very close to Price on the beauty of architecture, for to Price, too, the 
beauty of architecture consisted in regularity and neatness. But Price 
was actually defining the beauty of the regular arts in this way 5 
Knight, however, does not define beauty unqualifiedly, but distin- 
guishes the beauties of the different faculties here he speaks of an 
associational beauty quite different from sensual beauty. 

Led into a general discussion of gardening and architecture, as 
far as these arts involve association, Knight lays it down that "the 
mind requires propriety in every thing 5 that is, it requires that those 
properties, the ideas of which it has been invariably habituated to as- 
sociate, should be associated in reality; otherwise the combinations 
will appear to be unnatural, incoherent, or absurd." 35 In gardening, 
therefore, we require all to be dressed and cultivated immediately 
adjoining the dwellings of opulence and luxury, "although, if the 
same buildings were abandoned, and in ruins, we should, on the 
same principle of consistency and propriety, require neglected paths, 

Richard Payne Knight 263 

rugged lanes, and wild uncultivated thickets; which are, in them- 
selves, more pleasing, both to the eye and the imagination, but, unfit 
accompaniments for objects, not only originally produced by art, but, 
in which, art is constantly employed and exhibited." 36 Such neatness 
must be confined to the environs of the house, where it appears best 
in the form of Italianate gardening; park and forest are not to be 
shaved and trimmed. Repton had taken umbrage at The Landscape, 
and in the added chapter to his Sketches and Hints he protested 
Knight's "bitterness of prejudice against all that is neat and 
cleanly" which he traced to a fanatical insistence on pictorial effect. 
But it is apparent in the Analytical Inquiry that Knight did not de- 
sire wild forest to the very portals of the house, but (like Price) 
thought of a formal garden near the house, picturesque in its varied 
and intricate textures, of a wilder forest-park at some remove, and of 
an open park between 5 even in The Landscape the preference for 
formality near the house was evident. Repton never directly met 
Knight's actual position. From the first, however, Repton was partly 
in accord with Knight, thought The Landscape good poetry (though 
this made it the more insidious), and genuinely admired Knight's 
castle and picturesque estate of Downton. 37 He returns frequently to 
these themes in later books, and the area of agreement appears ulti- 
mately to increase 5 Repton takes to "enriching" his Red Books with 
quotations from The Landscape } even on the topic of approaches! 3S 
This happy accord was prevented for a time, however, by publica- 
tion of the Analytical Inquiry. "The elegant and gentlemanlike man- 
ner in which Mr. Price has examined my opinions, and explained his 
own," wrote Repton, "left no room for further controversy" 5 but 
Knight's book again called upon Repton to defend the art of land- 
scape gardening, though (as he complains) his own books were given 
no notice by Knight. "In perusing these works," Repton continues 
with some irony, "the candid reader will perhaps discover that there 
is no real difference between us 3 but, in contending with an adversary 
of such nice discernment, such deep investigation, and such ingen- 
ious powers of expression, it is difficult to say how far we are actually 
of the same opinion." 39 Repton's perplexity is increased by the con- 
troversy now developed between the two amateurs, whom he had 
considered pretty nearly of a piece in their opinions, if not in their 
manners. But he consoles himself with the reflection that many of 
his opinions have been confirmed by being "disguised in other 
words" stolen, that is in the Analytical Inquiry. He cites three 
ideas in evidence, reprinting the parallel passages from his own writ- 

264 Beautiful, Subhr?ic, and Picturesque 

ings and from Knight; the similarity is unquestionable, but Knight's 
comment (in the third edition of the Inquiry) seems just: that when 
the observations are obvious, an author ought not "to pronounce every 
such coincidence a plagiarism, nor triumph in the concession of what 
was never disputed." 40 

The truth is, that Repton did not wholly grasp the subtle and com- 
plicated theory of his amateur opponent, so that the controversy 
hinged, personalities aside, on points of practice, and even on these 
the controversialists understood one another imperfectly. The issues, 
then, are either the same as, or less well defined than, those in Rep- 
ton's quarrel with Price ; and it is unnecessary to enter into a more 
methodical analysis of them. 

In architecture, Knight justifies that mixture of Greek and Gothic 
which Repton had condemned. Knight argues for the superior pic- 
turesqueness of a heterogeneous style, and this (I judge) Repton 
would have granted ; but he makes light of that antiquarian demand 
for purity of style which for Repton forbade the mixture. Knight 
examines the history of castle and ecclesiastical Gothic, and dis- 
courses on the civil and military architecture of the ancients all with 
the view of dissolving the notion of stereotyped styles, pure and un- 
varying. The only truly general rule is, congruity with the situation 
and the purpose of buildings. The moderns, however, have inflexibly 
copied the sacred (rather than the domestic) architecture of the 
Greeks, and in its least varied forms 5 hence the regularity of Pal- 
ladian buildings, and hence the Grecian temple in the English park. 
Such a temple is in one sense, to be sure, as beautiful in the lawns 
and woods of England as on the barren hills of Agrigentum; but all 
the local, temporary, and accidental circumstances upon which its 
congruity depended are changed 5 in such an imitation, either of a 
Grecian temple or a Gothic abbey, "the scale of its exactitude be- 
comes that of its incongruity." 41 The fundamental error of imitators, 
Knight protests, "is, that they servilely copy the effects, which they 
see produced, instead of studying and adopting the principles, which 
guided the original artist in producing them 5 wherefore they disre- 
gard all those local, temporary, or accidental circumstances, upon 
which their propriety or impropriety their congruity or incongruity 
wholly depend: for principles in art are no other than the trains of 
ideas, which arise in the mind of the artist out of a just and adequate 
consideration of all such circumstances. . . ." 42 The real authority 
of style in building is the trained vision of the great landscape paint- 
ers., and the best style for picturesque houses is, accordingly, "that 

Richard Payne Knight 265 

mixed style, which characterizes the buildings of Claude and the 
Poussins," since it has no one manner o execution or class of orna- 
ments, but can admit of contrast "to heighten the relish of beauty" 
without appearance of deceit or imposture. 43 

Another variety of association in painting is that between handling 
and subject. Brilliant, free, and sketchy execution is peculiarly adapted 
to forms which are loose and flowing 5 the lightness of such work is 
peculiarly picturesque, and Rubens is in this particular the most pic- 
turesque of painters. Such picturesque form consists precisely in "those 
flowing and undulating lines, which have been called the lines of grace 
and beauty 5 how truly, the compositions of Rubens, in which they al- 
ways predominate, and those of Raphael, in which they are never 
employed, but incidentally, may decide." 44 Hogarth's famous line 
is, then, really the line of picturesqueness rather than of beauty un- 
qualified. This apparent contradiction is more than a difference of 
taste. Hogarth's psychology dwelt on the notion of the eye tracing 
outlines, so that form was fundamental in his conception of beauty, 
and the beauty of color was treated secondarily and by analogy with 
that of form. Knight's theory, in contrast, rests on the idea that the 
eye is affected immediately only by light and color, the beauty of 
form entering his system only by associations of various kinds here 
by an indirect association, through the handling, with facility of col- 
oring and composing chiaroscuro. 

The subtlety of Knight's system is shown nicely in the parallel 
discussion of form in sculpture, an art more fairly representing beauty 
of form than painting since it has neither tricks of light and shade 
nor can it leave anything to the imagination by sketchy brilliance of 
execution. "The forms, therefore, both of the human figure and 
countenance, which are peculiarly appropriate to sculpture, are di- 
rectly the reverse of the picturesque forms above mentioned 5 this 
art requiring exact symmetry in limb and body, muscles and joints 
strongly indicated, regular and distinct features. . , ." 45 This is an 
associational beauty, for symmetry (in which Knight comprehends 
proportion) depends wholly on association, not at all on abstract rea- 
son or organic sensation 5 nor is it far different from that ideal beauty 
which Reynolds deemed requisite not in sculpture only but in the 
higher styles of painting as well. And since this style of beauty is es- 
pecially appealing to those conversant with the masterpieces of classic 
sculpture, it really constitutes a sculpturesque analogous to the pic- 
turesque. But Price need not add this new character to his scale of 
taste, as Knight ironically suggests. Knight may think of the pictur- 

266 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

esque as sensual beauty together with complex associations to the art 
of painting, but this is not Price's conception 5 for Price, the pictur- 
esque is a certain composition of line, color, and light the peculiar ef- 
fect of which is attributable not to association with painting nor to the 
pleasure of the eye in broken tints, but to association with a variety 
of passions and to a reaction of the nerves. Knight pursues his point 
with a whole train of new aesthetic characters. The grottesque, he 
writes, must c <bear somewhat of the same relation to the pcturesque, 
as he [Price] supposes the picturesque to bear to the beautiful: for 
the grottesque is certainly, a degree or two at least, further removed 
from the insipid smoothness and regularity of beauty, than he sup- 
poses the picturesque to be." 46 And in this same strain of unfeeling 
sarcasm, Price is advised "to season the insipidity of beauty" with 
the classical, the romantic, the pastoral, the mercantile, &c. "All these 
extra pleasures are from the minds of the spectators j whose pre- 
existing trains of ideas are revived, refreshed, and reassociated by new, 
but correspondent impressions on the organs of sense $ and the great 
fundamental error, which prevails throughout the otherwise able 
and elegant Essays on the Picturesque, is seeking for distinctions in 
external objects, which only exist in the modes and habits of viewing 
and considering them." 47 And Knight pretends to find the key to 
Price's philosophy in a remark made by the character Seymour in 
Price's Dialogue: " 'All these ideas,' says an interlocutor, who, on 
this occasion, sustains his own part in his dialogue, 'are originally ac- 
quired by the touch 5 but from use they are become as much objects 
of sight as colours. 3 When there is so little discrimination between 
the operations of mind and the objects of sense, that ideas become 
objects of sight, all the rest follows of course -, and the distinct classes 
of beauty may be divided into as many distinct characters, as there 
are distinct ideas. . . ." 48 Seymour was really intended by Price to 
stand for naivete and common sense 3 and the remark Knight ridi- 
cules was, Price apologizes, only a careless expression but Price's 
defense will be taken up later. 

According to Knight's exposition of the influence of association, dig- 
nity, elevation, grace, and elegance depend wholly upon mental sym- 
pathies and association of ideas, differing only in "that while our 
ideas of dignity of attitude and gesture have always continued nearly 
the same, those of grace and elegance have been in a perpetual state 
of change and fluctuation: for our notions of what is mean, and what 
is elevated, depend upon the natural and permanent sentiments of 
the soul 5 but those of what is refined or polished 5 and pleasant, or 













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Richard Payne Knight 267 

the contrary, depend much on artificial manners, which are inces- 
santly varying." 40 Dignity and grace alike express the character of 
the soul mediately, through association in experience 5 and in this 
they alike differ from expression in the features and the voice, both 
which are immediately cognized by internal senses. It is curious that 
Knight, who makes so much of associational psychology, retains these 
additional faculties in his system, vestiges of an aesthetic method al- 
ready antiquated. 

Knight returns repeatedly to the denunciation of rigid system and 
general rules in the arts; "indeed," he says, "in all matters of taste 
and criticism, general rules appear to me to be, like general theories 
in government and politics, never safe but where they are useless 5 
that is, in cases previously proved by experience." 50 Critics, like cas- 
uists, attempt to direct by rules matters depending on sentiment and 
which elude all the subtleties of logic. This is not total skepticism, 
however, for although there remains no test of aesthetic excellence 
but feeling, the discrimination of modes and causes of feeling which 
Knight is conducting permits a general judgment to emerge from 
the welter of conflicting tastes, even though such principles will 
rarely be universal and permanent, depending as they do on the 
state of the human mind in the different stages of its culture and 
upon variations induced by custom. Disparagement of rules carries 
with it a vigorous hostility towards academies. The great objection 
to institutionalized art is that the members quite naturally come to 
imitate one another, to adopt a common style which deprives them 
of their individual sentiments. This objection applies equally to mod- 
ern European academies of painting and Roman schools of rhetoric, 
from the institution of which the decline of Latin eloquence may be 
dated. In truth, Knight declares, "the whole history of literature 
obliges us to acknowledge that, in proportion as criticism has become 
systematic, and critics numerous, the powers of composition and pu- 
rity of taste have, in all ages and countries gradually decayed." 51 

Association of ideas accounts not only for improved perception and 
imaginative connection, but for judgment as well 5 and this second 
part of the Analytical Inquiry concludes with a chapter on judgment. 
"Judgment," Knight states, "is more properly the result of a faculty 
than a faculty itself j it being the decision, which reason draws from 
comparison: whence the word is commonly used to signify the talent 
of deciding justly and accurately in matters, that do not admit of 
mathematical demonstration j m which sense, judgment may be prop- 
erly considered as a mode of action of reason." 52 This is the familiar 

268 Beautiful, Sublime, a?id Picturesque 

distinction of demonstrative reasoning on relations of number and 
quantity from that reasoning on questions of cause and effect and re- 
semblance which depends on association. It is of course true that 
Knight's analysis of this associative reason is much too simple to 
serve as a logic 5 he does not distinguish proof from probability, or 
develop any canons for checking less certain against more certain in- 
ferences. But for his immediate purposes, the differentiation of de- 
monstrative from habitual reason is enough $ unimportant in most 
matters of practical life, "it is of the utmost importance in fixing the 
just bounds of poetical fiction 5 and that is the subject, to which the 
nature of my present inquiry leads me to apply it." 33 Artistic proba- 
bility or "truth" is the central concern throughout the discussion of 

Knight illustrates the problem by the implausible Homeric ac- 
count of Ulysses' three-day swim: this circumstance, however improb- 
able, does not destroy the interest of the story $ but it would be de- 
monstratively impossible for Ulysses to appear in two places at once, 
"for difference and identity of substance, space and time, are matters 
of demonstration by number and quantity," 54 and such an invention 
would have destroyed our interest in the subsequent events. When 
demonstratively false circumstances do not obstruct the train of our 
ideas and feelings, we do not quarrel with fictions, for poetical prob- 

does not arise so much from the resemblance of the fictions to real 
events, as from the consistence of the language with the sentiments, 
of the sentiments and actions with the characters, and of the different 
parts of the fable, with each other: for, if the mind be deeply interested, 
as it always will be by glowing sentiments and fervid passions happily 
expressed, and naturally arising out of the circumstances and incidents 
of a consistent fable, it will never turn aside to any extraneous matter 
for rules of comparison, but judge of the probability of the events 
merely by their connection with, and dependence upon each other. 55 

This principle has important application to dramatic poetry, where 
real actors are present to our senses as a part of the poem 5 poetic li- 
cense is restricted within narrower bounds of probability, and incident 
and sentiment confined to what we can really believe possible to such 
men as we see. Unities of time and place find no justification on 
Knight's principles and go by the board. 56 And unity of action becomes 
only unity of subject, "for, where the events described or represented, 
spring, in their natural order of succession, from one source, the sen- 

Richard Payne Knight 269 

timents of sympathy, which they excite, will all verge to one centre, 
and be connected by one chain." 57 

It is interesting to contrast the argument of Knight on this whole 
subject of poetical belief and probability with that of Aristotle. Aris- 
totle's chief concern is formal and artistic, a concern with the condi- 
tions which render the work of art a unity, a pseudo-substance with 
a principle of organization analogous to those of natural substances 5 
and the reactions of the audience enter subordinately to this formal 
interest, only broad and casual assumptions being made about audi- 
ence psychology. Knight's concern, in contrast, is pre-eminently psy- 
chological, with the principles of the mind which determine audience 
reaction being fundamental, the formal properties of the work are 
deduced as appropriate causes for such responses. Thus for Aristotle, 
the primary element in a poem is the plot, with character, thought, 
and diction following in descending sequence, each being, relative 
to the preceding, as matter is to form. For Knight the sentiments 
are primary, for the sentiments, clothed in appropriate diction, carry 
that enthusiasm which is the essence of poetry. But with all this oppo- 
sition, it is remarkable how close the resulting analyses of particular 
works can be 5 when Knight describes the "subject" of Macbeth as the 
ambition of Lady Macbeth, which, "instigated by the prophecies of 
the witches . . . rouses the aspiring temper of her husband, and 
urges him to the commission of a crime, the consciousness of which 
embitters the remainder of his life, and makes him suspicious, fero- 
cious, and cruel j whence new crimes excite new enemies, and his de- 
struction naturally follows," 58 his statement would serve for Aris- 
totle as statement of the "plot." The two critics, operating with very 
different ideas, work from contrary directions towards a common 
goal: statements about works which will be at once definitions of 
their forms and descriptions of their effects. 

Knight's remarks on the realism of petty details, on the use of al- 
legorical agents and of symbolical figures, on refined conventionali- 
zation and idealization in the different arts all are pointed and 
some ingenious, but they need not be spelled out. Unusual is his dis- 
taste for Michael Angelo, who departed from nature not in the direc- 
tion of a superior and ideal perfection but in that of extravagant vi- 
olence: "the evil which he did, in making extravagance and distortion 
pass for grandeur and vigour of character and expression, still spreads 
with increasing virulence of contagion. . . ." 59 This dislike is really 
consistent with (though I would hesitate to assert that it is a strict 
deductive consequence of) Knight's system. Michael Angelo's art rests 

270 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

on form rather than on color and light} all the effect of form results 
from expression, and since "expression, that is not true, ceases to be 
expression/' truth is the foundation of the power of forms } Michael 
Angelo's forms are assuredly not, to a severely classical taste, true. 

Knight's account of association in aesthetics has now been surveyed 
in its entirety, and it is apparent how great, how predominating a role 
association plays in this system. Yet Knight is not quite a disciple of 
Alison } association does not for him, as for Alison, exclude other 
causes of aesthetic feeling. Knight complains, in fact, that by en- 
deavoring to reduce everything to the one principle of association, 
Alison "seems to forget, though he abundantly exemplifies, the in- 
fluence, which the association of a favorite system may acquire in 
every thing." 60 Knight's thought is very closely related to that of 
Hume, though he can not be quoted to this effect, for he mentions 
Hume only to oppose what he takes to be Hume's skepticism. But the 
outlines of the systems bear an unmistakable resemblance: Hume 
distinguishes ideas from impressions, and these last into sensations 
(which precede corresponding ideas) and passions (which usually 
follow them) } and this is the organization of Knight's treatise 
sensations, ideas, passions. The refusal to construct a system as ideal 
as Alison's or as sensational and pathetic as Hogarth's or Burke's is 
the consequence of filling out a matrix derived from Locke and 

First step in the study of the passions (Part III of the Analytical 
Inquiry) is to distinguish the aesthetic from the practical role of the 
passions. "The passions, considered either physically as belonging 
to the constitution of the individual, or morally, as operating upon 
that of society, do not come within the scope of my present inquiry} 
it being only by sympathy, that they are connected with subjects of 
taste} or that they produce, in the mind, any of those tender feelings, 
which are called pathetic, or those exalted or enthusiastic sentiments, 
which are called sublime." 61 Knight plunges directly into the prob- 
lem of delight in represented suffering or even in real suffering, as 
in a gladiatorial contest which delight he traces to sympathy, 
sympathy not with the suffering but "with the exhibitions of courage, 
dexterity, vigour, and address, which shone forth, in these combats 
of life and death, more conspicuously and energetically than they 
would have done, had the object of contention been less important." 62 
Men "are not so perversely constituted by nature, as ever to feel de- 
light in beholding the sufferings of those who never injured them," 63 

Richard Payne Knight 2JI 

but aJl delight in exhibitions either of the passive virtues of fortitude 
and patience or of the more interesting active merits of courage and 
dexterity. In the case of drama, the suffering is known to be fiction, 
but the sentiments are really expressed; "the sympathies, therefore, 
which they excite, are real and complete; and much more strong and 
effective, than if they were produced by scenes of real distress: for in 
that case, the sufferings, which we behold, would excite such a painful 
degree of sympathy, as would overpower and suppress the pleasant 
feelings, excited by the noble, tender, or generous sentiments, which 
we heard uttered." G4 

Knight's conception of poetic belief does away with the pity-and- 
fear formula for tragedy, for the danger is known to be unreal, the 
distress fictitious. Longmus had declared and Knight harks back 
to the theory of Longmus after discussion of the sublime had long 
taken another direction that grief, sorrow, and fear are incapable of 
any sublime expression. The reason alleged by Knight for this truth 
is, that these passions display only a selfish weakness, whereas the es- 
sence of the sublime is energy: "All sympathies, excited by just and 
appropriate expression of energetic passion ; whether they be of the 
tender or violent kind, are alike sublime j as they all tend to expand 
and elevate the mind 5 and fill it with those enthusiastic raptures, 
which Longinus justly states to be the true feelings of sublimity." 65 
Passions like pity, fear, sensuality are neither sublime in themselves 
nor capable of inspiring sublime expressions 5 others, while not as 
passions sublime, can excite "sentiments and expressions of great and 
enthusiastic force and vigour j with which we sympathize, and not 
with the passion itself" GG such are hatred and malignity 5 others yet 
are sublime both in themselves and in their appropriate expression, 
whether exhibiting active or passive energy. 

It follows also from Knight's doctrine of sympathy, that "no char- 
acter can be interesting or impressive in poetry, that acts strictly ac- 
cording to reason: for reason excites no sympathies, nor awakens any 
affections 5 and its effect is always rather to chill than to inflame." 67 
On the same principle, tragedy can not exhibit examples of pure 
morality without becoming dull and consequently as useless as in- 
sipid. There is nonetheless no moral danger in tragedy, for spectators 
do not attend the theater for examples on which to model their minds, 
but "to hear a certain series of dialogues, arising out of a certain series 
of supposed events, recited with appropriate modulations of voice, 
countenance, and gesture." 68 Knight achieves an appreciation of 

272 Beautijuly Sublime, and Picturesque 

tragedy which does not require superimposition of a moral lesson, 
nor even postulation of an indirect moral effect 5 it is a view as dis- 
interested as the mimetic analysis of Aristotle. 

Tragedy entered Knight's discussion chiefly because good tragedy 
is sublime j the sublime and pathetic are his subject rather than the 
analysis of literary forms, though they are best approached through 
literature because it is here that the nature of sympathy appears most 
distinctly. 69 It is worth remarking that in real life the sublime and 
pathetic may be separated and opposed (as the tender to the exalted), 
whereas "in all the fictions, either of poetry or imitative art, there 
can be nothing truly pathetic, unless it be, at the same time, in some 
degree, sublime: for, though, in scenes of real distress, pity may so 
far overcome scorn, that we may weep for sufferings, that are feebly 
or pusillanimously borne 5 yet, in fiction, scorn will always predomi- 
nate, unless there be a display of vigour, as well as tenderness and 
sensibility of mind." 70 Even in actuality sublime and pathetic are 
usually conjoined, and both find their ultimate vent in tears. 

All sublime feelings are feelings of exultation and expansion of the 
mind, whether excited by sympathy with external objects or arising 
from internal operations of the mind. Knight is willing to accept the 
catalog of sublime external objects established by earlier writers 5 in 
grasping at infinity the mind expands and exalts itself, whence its 
feelings become sublime 5 so with vast natural objects, or with those 
works of man which represent great labor or expense 5 and similarly 
with the general privations, darkness, silence, vacuity, and with 
the convulsions of nature. Some permit direct expansion of the mind, 
others are signs of power or energy, contemplation of which permits 
this same expansion. Burke had argued that all of these phenomena 
are fearful in themselves, or are suggestive of something fearful, 
or operate on the nervous system in the manner of fearful things. 71 
He does not argue as Knight supposes that the emotion of fear 
itself is sublime, but rather that the sublime is a feeling resulting 
from the remission of fear, from fear felt at a distance or by analogy 
or sympathy 5 the sublime is not pleasant but "delightful," in Burke's 
technical vocabulary. Knight's declaration that "fear is the most 
humiliating and depressing of passions," 72 and therefore wholly in- 
compatible with the sublime, does not really contradict Burke, who 
had said that "when danger or pain press too nearly, they are in- 
capable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible ; but at certain 
distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are 
delightful. . . ," 73 Knight ridicules this statement for its use of 

Richard Payne Knight 273 

"distance 15 to mean "degree" ("a stout instance of confusion even 
with every allowance that can be made for the ardour of youth in an 
Hibernian philosopher of five and twenty" 74 ) j but by "distance" I 
presume that Burke meant not a lesser degree of the same passion, 
but such a degree of probability or interest as permits us to see and 
be awed by the evil without engaging our direct practical concern 
for our safety, a meaning to which Knight could not strenuously ob- 
ject. Knight, of course, traces the sublime of apparently fearful ob- 
jects to perception of power: "As far as feeling or sentiment is con- 
cerned . . . that alone is terrible, which impresses some degree of 
fear. I may know an object to be terrible j that is, I may know it to 
possess the power of hurting or destroying: but this is knowledge, 
and not feeling or sentiment; and the object of that knowledge is 
power, and not terror; so that, if any sympathy results from it, it 
must be a sympathy with power only." 75 

When Knight moves on to ridicule of Burke's physiological hypoth- 
esis, he drops argument for pure satire. But quite seriously he charges 
Burke with fathering Gothic novels, grandiose and horrific painting, 
preposterous attempts to create the terrific in gardening, the poems 
of Ossian, and other extravagances ; and of the pernicious influence 
of Michael Angelo, Knight urges that "while it is supported by such 
brilliant theories as those of the Inquiry into the Sublime and Beauti- 
ful, there can be but faint hopes of its ceasing or subsiding." 76 The 
influence of Burke, indeed, "has principally appeared among artists, 
and other persons not much conversant with philosophical inquiries: 
for, except . . . [Price], I have never met with any man of learn- 
ing, by whom the philosophy of the Inquiry into the Sublime and 
Beautiful was not as much despised and ridiculed, as the brilliancy 
and animation of its style were applauded, and admired." 77 

The art in which the sublime finds its fullest expression is poetry, 
for here sympathy with mind is most direct, and the poet's power 
of selection and emphasis is confined by no such laws of strict imita- 
tion as in the plastic arts. Suppression of irrelevant or disturbing cir- 
cumstances in poetic description does not, however, justify the ob- 
scurity which Burke had found a potent cause of the sublime, for the 
more distinctly the energies expressed are brought before the imagina- 
tion, the more effect 5 description "should be distinct without being 
determinate" 78 Quantitative measurements are best omitted, since 
the imagination, raised to enthusiasm by the style of the poetry, 
will expand its conceptions to the bounds of probability. Knight's at- 
tention, it is clear, is directed to the precision, perspicuity, and energy 

274 Beautiful) Sublime, and Picturesque 

of the language of description, whereas Burke's was centered upon 
the image created. After all, the indeterminateness which Knight 
finds requisite to sublime imagery is very like Burke's obscurity 5 
what Knight is saying appears to be, that sublime imagery consists 
in distinct statement of the essential traits but with accidents of 
magnitude and relative situation left to the imagination. 

This whole critique of Burke seems to me to rest partly on a dif- 
ference of system, partly on a divergence of taste. Knight is unable 
to treat sublimity under the head of sensation, since he supposes the 
eye to be directly affected only by light and color, and he is thus at 
once in inescapable contradiction with Burke's physiology. The sub- 
lime cannot fall, moreover, under "association," for it comprises 
passions rather than mere associations of ideas, Knight must, there- 
fore, treat sublimity among the passions. Burke, too, had connected 
the sublime with the passions, with those passions concerned with 
self-preservation. We have seen the extent of Knight's misinterpreta- 
tions of Burke's thought on this topic, and the extent to which Burke's 
"terror" can be translated into Knight's system ; but the difference 
between the two accounts is not dissolved away by such translation. 
When Knight tells us that the fidelity of Ulysses' hound is sublime, 
we can not avoid recognizing a real difference in taste. Knight speaks, 
here and everywhere, of a peculiar heightening which may super- 
vene when any but a weak or selfish passion is apprehended intensely 5 
the expression of passions moral and malignant, vigorous and tender, 
may all be sublime. Burke, in contrast, speaks of a more special feeling 
which always involves a kind of awe, usually tinged with terror or 
horror "at a certain distance." If these observations are just, Knight 
is conducting a genuine argument in the chapter on the sublime and 
pathetic. The sublime receives the kind of treatment proper to it in 
this system. 79 

Diametrically opposite to the sublime and pathetic "is the ridic- 
ulous: for laughter is an expression of joy and exultation 5 which 
arises not from sympathy but triumph -, and which seems therefore 
to have its principle in malignity. Those vices, which are not suf- 
ficiently baneful and destructive to excite detestation $ and those 
frailties and errors, which are not sufficiently serious and calamitous 
to excite pity, are generally such as excite laughter. . . ." 80 Those 
passions incompatible with the sublime, those belonging to self- 
preservation or self-gratification (fear, avarice, vanity, gluttony, &c.), 
are the usual subject of the ridiculous, "for, as they show vice without 
energy $ and make human nature appear base without being atrocious, 

Richard Payne Kmght 275 

and vile without being destructive, they excite the laugh of scorn 
instead of the frown of indignation. . . ." 81 So much for the proper 
object of wit and ridicule; the technique of the ridiculous involves 
always some incongruous juxtaposition. Wit requires novel junctions 
of contrasting ideas, through which the principal subject is distorted 
or debased, humor consists in junction of dissimilar manners rather 
than images and ideas ; parody involves degradation of serious com- 
positions by analogous means ; mimicry the peculiarities of individ- 
uals; and so forth. Knight virtually limits the ridiculous to what 
Freud has termed "tendency-wit," and indeed to one mode of tendency- 
wit, that which serves the purposes of aggression, "harmless wit" and 
the other modes of tendency-wit the sexual, the skeptical, &c. are 
not acknowledged. And despite recognition that the "proper" function 
of ridicule can be perverted, so that virtuous moderation rather than 
foolish or vicious excess becomes its object, Knight has no glimpse 
of any inherently antimoral tendency in ridicule. 

Comedy, the literary form of the ridiculous, departs equally with 
tragedy from common life, one exaggerating the general energies 
of human nature, the other its particular weaknesses and defects as 
modified and distorted by artificial society. Since the characters and 
incidents of comedy are drawn from the ordinary ranks of society, 
its examples of folly often, Knight grants, of folly triumphant 
are open to all to imitate ; but comedy is not therefore pernicious, for 
it is "a fictitious imitation of the examples of real life, and not an 
example from which real life is ever copied. No one ever goes to the 
theatre to learn how he is to act on a particular emergency 5 or to 
hear the solution of any general question of casuistical morality," 82 
but only to sympathize with the energies or weaknesses of humanity 
free of the painful sentiments which such contemplation would oc- 
casion in real life. Literature is for Knight an object of aesthetic 
appreciation, not an instrument of moral reform. 

The final chapter, "Of Novelty," brings us full circle; we return 
to the sense of flux which dominated the Introduction of the Inquiry, 
The sensations and sentiments which have been reviewed, like all 
others, are reduced by habit to insipidity. "Change and variety are, 
therefore," Knight declares, "necessary to the enjoyment of all pleas- 
ure ; whether sensual or intellectual: and so powerful is this principle, 
that all change, not so violent as to produce a degree of irritation in 
the organs absolutely painful, is pleasing; and preferable to any 
uniform and unvaried gratification." 83 Perfection of taste and style 
is no sooner reached, accordingly, than the restless pruriency of in- 

276 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

novation leads to its abandonment 5 the pure and perfect continues 
to be applauded, perhaps, but is not imitated. The desire for novelty 
is also, of course, a cause of progressive improvement of taste, so 
long as it is restrained to imitation of genuine nature ; "but, when 
it calls upon invention to usurp the place of imitation 5 or substitute 
to genuine, or merely embellished nature, nature sophisticated and 
corrupted by artificial habits, it immediately produces vice and ex- 
travagance of manner." 84 The usual effect of custom is to reduce 
embellishment and refinement to vulgarity, so that refinement must 
be twice refined 5 hence the progress of all highly polished languages, 
and hence the changes of taste in landscape gardening. 

But even here, in the restless principle of change itself, a standard 
of taste is found. There is the novelty of mere fashion, caprice, and 
innovation; and there is a permanent novelty. Intricacy and variety 
are modes of gratifying curiosity, a passion satisfaction of which pro- 
duces an unmixed pleasure universally felt; a system of gardening, 
then, which introduces variety and intricacy as its principles the 
picturesque gardening which Price and Knight invented and popu- 
larized is novel not only in the sense of being different from the 
previous fashion, but also as containing a permanent novelty of com- 
position. This self-contained newness is an achievement in which art 
may for a time at least escape from flux. 

Inordinate gratification of the taste for mere novelty is a moral, 
and not merely an aesthetic, evil, resulting in atrophy of real powers 
of sensibility and understanding. Debilitation of the mind and the 
pampering of morbid sensibility are the moral dangers which Knight 
perceives in the fiction of his age; but in general, the moral influence 
of belles-lettres is slight. 

The end of morality is to restrain and subdue all the irregularities of 
passion and affection; and to subject the conduct of life to the dominion 
of abstract reason, and the uniformity of established rule but the busi- 
ness of poetry . . . is to display, and even exaggerate those irregulari- 
ties; and to exhibit the events of life diversified by all the wild varieties 
of ungoverned affections, or chequered by all the fantastic modes of 
anomalous and vitiated habits. It is, therefore, utterly impossible for the 
latter to afford models for the former; and, the instant that it attempts 
it, it necessarily becomes tame and vapid; and, in short, ceases to be 
poetry. . . , 85 

The moral good of the arts is only in their civilizing and softening 
mankind by substituting mental to sensual pleasures and turning the 
mind to mild and peaceful pursuits the good which critics and phi- 

Richard Payne Knight 2JJ 

losophers have agreed upon since Plato called for music to soften 
the temper of his warriors. 

The Analytical Inquiry concludes, as The Landscape had concluded, 
with an exposition of the general conditions of happiness. Our felicity. 
Knight insists, depends on novelty j man's happiness 

consists in the means and not in the end: in acquisition, and not in 
possession. The source and principle of it is, therefore, novelty: the at- 
tainment of new ideas; the formation of new trains of thought; the 
renewal and extension of affections and attachments . . . and above all, 
the unlimited power of fancy in multiplying and varying the objects, 
the results, and the gratifications of our pursuits beyond the bounds of 
reality, or the probable duration of existence. A state of abstract per- 
fection would, according to our present weak and inadequate notions 
of things, be a state of perfect misery. . . , 86 

But custom steadily reduces the possibility of novelty; imagination, 
which prior to possession enhances the value of every object, "im- 
mediately afterwards becomes equally busy and active in exposing its 
defects and heightening its faults; which, of course, acquire influence 
as their opposites lose it. Thus it happens that in moral as well as 
physical in intellectual as well as sensual gratifications, the circles 
of pleasure are expanded only in a simple ratio, and to a limited de- 
gree; while those of pain spread in a compound rate of progression; 
and are only limited in their degree by the limits of our existence." 87 
Though the objects with which we are familiar cease to give pleasure, 
habitual attachment to them makes the prospect of loss more painful 
than before, and we are protected from the effects of this irreversible 
tendency only by dissolution. Elaboration of this theme evokes all of 
Knight's acuity and his considerable powers of melancholy eloquence; 
Payne Knight is not only an aesthetician but a moralist of stature. 


The Price-Knight Controversy 

THE ESSENCE of Knight's position on the picturesque had 
been presented succinctly in the note appended to the second 
edition of The Landscape: the distinction of sensation and perception, 
the separation of the modes of beauty proper to the various senses 
and faculties, the definition of picturesque beauty as that kind of 
moderate and grateful visual irritation which painting serves to 
isolate. The "picturesque," Knight declares, "is merely that kind of 
beauty which belongs exclusively to the sense of vision ; or to the 
imagination, guided by that sense." I The second of these alternatives, 
however analysis of the associations with painting, the styles of 
painters, and particular pictures is omitted from the discussion 5 the 
note to The Landscape is intended rather to clear the ground than 
to erect the finished edifice of a complete theory. Price countered this 
note with A Dialogue on the Distinct Characters of the Picturesque 
and the Beautiful, in Answer to the Objections of Mr. Knight ( 1 80 1 ) , 
and the argument of this dialogue is applicable to the more complete 
form as well of Knight's theory. Knight returned to the charge with 
comment in the Analytical Inquiry, comment expanded by more en- 
thusiastic attack upon Burke's theory in the second edition $ and Price, 
finally, added a brief Appendix to his Dialogue for the 1810 edition 
of his works. 

So much for bibliography. The Dialogue itself is not a true philo- 
sophical dialogue, for the truth does not emerge from the debate 5 
rather, one of the interlocutors is in possession of it from the first and 
needs only to triumph over the counterarguments and objections of 
the other speakers. The dialogue form is merely a rhetorical device 
to convince the simple and intrigue the bored. Airing the views of 
Price himself is a Mr. Hamilton ; Mr. Howard, Knight's partisan, 
recites in fragments the note to The Landscape; and the two con- 


The Price-Knight Controversy 279 

noisseurs both seek the allegiance of Mr. Seymour, the naive arbiter. 2 
The three friends, meeting by accident, determine on viewing a 
collection of paintings at a manor house nearby; they are delayed, 
however, some thirty pages by the charms of the real scenes they 
encounter by the way, a device which permits that double comparison 
of art and nature which is somehow involved, essentially or acciden- 
tally, in every conception of the picturesque. Price devises the inci- 
dents so that such comparisons arise quite naturally: the friends pass 
a real butcher shop in the village, and once in the picture gallery they 
find a Rembrandt of a flayed 0x5 they admire a prospect en route 
which is matched in the gallery by a Claude ; and so forth. Soon our 
amateurs stumble on a group of gypsies encamped in a decayed hovel 
on a gloomy heath, a scene picturesque in every detail and radically 
removed from what is ordinarily deemed beautiful; the rhapsodies 
on the picturesque which this view evokes from the connoisseurs 
piques the curiosity of Mr. Seymour; and Mr. Howard, in the lan- 
guage of Knight, explains that the picturesque is the beauty peculiar 
to vision or to the imagination guided by vision, adding hastily an 
explanation of the difference between sensation and perception. Mr. 
Seymour perceives this difference well enough, but thinks that "per- 
ception . . . m the mind, and sensation in the organ, although dis- 
tinct operations in themselves, are practically inseparable." Sight, 
continues Mr. Seymour (and if Howard <parle comme un livre, as 
Knight protests, Seymour farle comme wn met&pbysicien)) distin- 
guishes "not only form in general, but, likewise, its different qualities; 
such as hardness, softness, roughness, smoothness, &c. and to judge 
of the distance and gradation of objects: all these ideas, it is true, 
are originally acquired by the touch; but from use, they are become 
as invariably connected with objects of sight, as the very perceptions 
of the colours themselves." 3 Mr. Howard explains patiently that the 
imitations of painting separate the visual qualities, and that by the 
study of pictures the eye learns to respond to these qualities in 
nature abstracted from all others. Seymour is not satisfied. He can 
not separate the visual from the tactile properties; he can not neglect 
the beauty of the parts separately for the sake of their harmoniously 
blended composition ("am I obliged to call a number of colours 
beautiful, because they match well, though each of them, separately 
considered, is ugly? 534 he asks incredulously) 5 he can not see why 
beautiful objects should not blend and compose as well as the pic- 
turesque or ugly Howard has dwelt on. 

Mr. Hamilton (Price, that is) is much gratified by the objections 

280 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

of Seymour, which represent for him the candor of naivete as against 
the subtlety of system 5 and he hastens to say that there is really but 
one point of difference between Howard and himself, "and that rather 
on a matter of curious inquiry, than of real moment; our general 
principles are the same, and I flatter myself we should pass nearly 
the same judgment on the merits and defects of any work of art, or 
on any piece of natural, or improved scenery j but our friend there 
[Howard] has taken a strong antipathy to any distinction or sub- 
division on this subject." 5 Picturesqueness is for Hamilton the con- 
cept which solves all difficulties by its means, the pleasure which 
lovers of painting derive from real scenes is accounted for without 
confounding our natural ideas of beauty as soft, graceful, elegant, 
and lovely. 

Already we have the fundamental answer of Price to Knight's 
theory of pure visual beauty: Price denies that dissociation ever pro- 
ceeds so far that the parts of our complex perceptions originally 
attributable to different senses are discriminated and appreciated 
separately. It is true that a picture of a flayed ox, if executed by a 
Rembrandt, may please, though the carcass would in reality be of- 
fensive 5 but then the odor and animal disgust are not present in the 
imitation, and even so those parts of the picture representing the 
unattractive subject are pleasing only by virtue of imitation as such 
and because of the harmonious light and color. All this fits with 
Howard's Knight's explanations too 5 but here the friends differ, 
for Hamilton argues that these merits make the picture only a well- 
done piece an excellent, not strictly speaking a beautiful picture. 
A truly beautiful work is one which, having these properly artistic 
excellences, is beautiful also in its parts which has, that is, a beau- 
tiful subject. Hamilton elicits from Seymour some further reasons 
why scenes displeasing in reality may be acceptable in painting: even 
'^without having recourse to the operation of the other senses," Hamil- 
ton sums up, "we may account for the difference between the effect 
of disgusting objects in reality, and in pictures 5 in which last, not 
only the size of objects, and their detail, are in general very much 
lessened, but also the scale both of light and colour, is equally low- 
ered." 6 The diminution of resemblance effected by change in scale, 
in lighting, in detail, cuts the associative ties with the real scenes 
far enough to remove the unpleasant associations with the real ob- 
jects, but not so far as to destroy the pleasure of imitation: here is 
a theory of dissociation as efficacious as Knight's, yet which does not 
require abandonment of the distinction between beauty and pictur- 
esqueness. For a Teniers scene of a woman cleaning guts in a back 

The Price-Knight Controversy 281 

kitchen is excellent but not beautiful 5 a Magdalen of Guido is both 
beautiful, and excellent as a picture. And, adds Hamilton, "where 
great excellence in the art is employed on pleasing objects, the su- 
perior interest will be felt by every observer $ but especially by 
those who are less conversant in the mechanical part." 7 

The discussion wanders back and forth between beauty and pictur- 
esqueness, with Seymour's native good sense leading him gradually 
towards Price's point of view. The final conversion is effected by a 
Pannini view of St. Peter's. When Hamilton assures him that Howard 
would have to regard this splendid edifice as still more beautiful in 
ruins, common sense revolts, and Seymour rejects the theory of 
Knight. Price thinks it fair to allege this consequence of Knight's 
theory, for we all know that ruins are more picturesque than entire 
edifices, and Knight (we are told) denies any difference between the 
picturesque and the beautiful in visible objects. "It seems to me," 
Seymour is made to object to Howard, ". . . that, according to 
your system whatever is not absolute monotony, or absolute dis- 
cord, is positive beauty, or, if you please, -picturesque beauty: for 
that epithet, taken in your sense, only confines the term to visible 
objects, but makes no other discrimination." 8 This, however, is a 
misrepresentation 5 Knight does not say that picturesqueness is merely 
the beauty of visible objects ; he says that it is the beauty of such 
objects as merely visible without compounding by perceptions 
derived from touch, without association of imaginative or poetic 
ideas, without suffusion by the passions. But the beauty of St. Peter's 
is not primarily this pure visual beauty. In architecture the transitive 
meanings of %eauty" outweigh the sense which for Knight is strict ; 
the perfect building is more beautiful than the ruin in the everyday 
sense of %eauty," though less beautiful in the purely visual sense 
less suited, therefore, for painting less suggestive of our ideas 
of painting and paintings less picturesque. 

Is there, then, no difference on this point between Price and Knight, 
once confusions are cleared away? 9 I repeat what I have urged be- 
fore, that the psychological systems of the two men are quite different, 
and that this difference permeates all their disputes, underlying the 
verbal confusions. Knight finds, necessarily, that the picturesque has 
an essential relation to painting, and that other arts or activities 
giving us special points of view yield analogous qualities none of 
them in the nature of things, all of them produced by special con- 
ditions in the mind of the observer, all of them modes of beauty. 
Price, fer contra, consistently with his system finds the picturesque 
related only accidentally to painting, founded in the nature of things 

282 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

(though itself a feeling in the mind), and analytically distinct from 
beauty. On the particular point which led the participants of the 
Dialogue into this wrangle that picture by Panmm Knight would 
say that such a painting of splendid and perfect architecture is (how- 
ever meritorious) not doing the special work of painting, is not the 
highest rank of picture ; Price would say, per contra, that the best 
paintings are those which combine pictorial excellences with beau- 
tiful subjects, and that as far as Pannini did this he is secure from 
criticism. If Knight should object that pictorial excellence is not 
wholly compatible with such a subject as Pannini's, a subject confess- 
edly beautiful in some sense, then at last we come to a difference in 
practical taste. 

The three friends, sated with pictures, walk out of doors again 
and directly into a Brownian garden. Hamilton and Howard to- 
gether make short work of it. Hamilton punctures the sophistical 
defense of the Reptonians that beauty-not-picturesqueness is the ob- 
ject of their calling by showing the limitations this formula really 
implies, and the insipidity which follows from it in practice. But 
he and Howard fall by the ears when Howard remarks that the 
Brownian garden shows just how little smoothness has to do with 
beauty, and reiterates his theory of beauty as mild visual irritation. 
It of course follows from Knight's theory, that smooth objects are 
harsh to the eye, rough objects soft and harmonious that, in short, 
the effect of roughness on the touch is like that of smoothness on 
the eye, that of smoothness to the touch like that of roughness to the 
eye. 10 Hamilton replies at some length, pointing out (among other 
objections) that while roughness is always unpleasing to the touch, 
light is painful to the eye only in excess, and that the point at which 
it becomes excessive depends on the extent to which the imagination 
has been interested. Can it still be maintained that Price is an "ob- 
jectivist" and Knight an associationist? 

Seymour lends his weight, too, against the theory of abstract vision, 
declaring that "some of our earliest ideas are, that smoothness is 
pleasing, and roughness unpleasing to the eye, as well as to the 
touch 5 and these first ideas always prevail, though we afterwards 
learn to discriminate, and to modify them." And, he goes on, "the 
whole tenor of your argument [addressing Howard] goes to prove, 
that, with respect to colours, the mere absence of discord, is the great 
principle of visible beauty 5 whereas, if there be a positive beauty in 
any thing, it must be in colours: the general effect, I allow, will not 
be beautiful without harmony 5 but neither can the most perfect 

The Price-Knight Controversy 283 

accord change the nature of dull or ugly colours, and make them 
beautiful." u Seymour has hardly time to say so much before Hamil- 
ton interposes to pronounce once more his creed, bolstered as it is by 
observation of Seymour's reactions during the excursion: 

had I [says Hamilton] not observed so many instances at various times, 
of the indifference of persons little conversant with pictures to picturesque 
objects I must have given up one principal ground of my distinction. 
Its strongest foundation, however, rests upon the direct and striking op- 
position that exists between the qualities which prevail m objects which 
all allow to be beautiful, and those which prevail m others, almost as 
generally admitted to be picturesque: and tall youth and age, freshness and 
decay, smoothness and ruggedness, symmetry and irregularity, are looked 
upon in the same light, and the objects in which they are prevalent give 
the same kind of pleasure to all persons . . . the character of the ob- 
jects themselves, must, in truth, be as distinct, as the qualities of which 
they are composed. 12 

In the Analytical Inquiry, Knight picked up the quarrel again 5 but 
the issue of principle was already joined, and that discussion in the 
Inquiry which is directed explicitly upon Price's Dialogue adds little 
save on some concrete details of the dispute. Complaint is made (and 
with justice) that Price had distorted Knight's doctrine into the proposi- 
tion that the picturesque is simply the beautiful of visible objects, 
so that with respect to objects of sight "beauty" and "picturesqueness" 
are synonyms. 13 Price returns to this issue in his 1810 Appendix, 
and exhibits a lamentable inability to grasp Knight's point even 
though he had the answer ready to hand in the objections which 
"Seymour" had raised in the Dialogue. Price even detects that in the 
Inquiry his friend "appears somewhat inclined to make the same sort 
of distinction between the beautiful and the picturesque which I have 
made, and which in his note he had treated as imaginary." w This 
triumph is imaginary, but not so Price's own cause for complaint 
Knight's attack on his alleged "objectivism," an assault founded on 
misrepresentation. One feels, in reading these last words of the con- 
troversy, that the issue had worn itself out. There was from the first, 
and there still remained, a real difference between the disputants, but 
the resolution of this difference even clear and distinct recognition 
of it was prevented by misreading and misunderstanding. Neither 
of the controversialists, so limited, had more to say on the issue of 
principle, and further discussion would have been mere combative 


T)ugald Stewart 

OAMUEL MONK asserts, as the summary proposition of his 
O survey. The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in XVIII- 
Century England, that the aesthetic speculations in the Britain of 
that age were an unconscious prolegomenon to Kant: a . . . it may 
be said that eighteenth-century aesthetic has as its unconscious goal 
the Critique of Judgment, the book in which it was to be refined and 
reinterpreted." * Yet it seems to me doubtful that the intellectual 
history of any age can be viewed, without distortion, as a progres- 
sion towards some one culmination. If adequate allowance is made 
for backslidings, excursions into wastelands on either side of the beaten 
track, and new beginnings from fresh starting points, perhaps in 
contrary directions, no generalization can hope to subsume these 
multifarious particulars. Assuredly, no British aesthetician of the 
eighteenth century evolved a system resembling Kant's, unless in 
such occasional concurrence on particular points of doctrine as may 
be found in writers the most diverse. Monk partly recognizes the 
difficulty of supporting his hypothesis by a literal study of the texts, 
and is inclined to detect a blind Anders-streben at work in the mind 
of the century, a vague groping for a truth beyond what the men of 
the age could formulate, but which became more and more luminous 
and distinct as the century wore on. 

Maintaining (as I do) that there is no tendency for multiplicity 
to reduce to unity in the British speculations of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, and in consequence no simple historical progression from in- 
adequacy to completeness, from error to truth, I can not erect any writer 
as goal and terminus for the inquiry. In another sense, however, a 
terminus can be found in a writer who aimed to subsume and rein- 
terpret the speculation of the century: Dugald Stewart. Stewart 
considered himself the first worker at the superstructure of the "Phi- 


Dugald Stewart 285 

losophy of the Human Mind/ 3 Reid having performed the pre- 
requisite destructive labor of clearing away the metaphysical rubbish 
of previous systems. 2 Yet, though considering himself partly a disciple 
of Reid, and partly an innovator in applying an improved inductive 
method in mental philosophy, Stewart was in great measure an eclectic 
writer j in all his works he looks reflectively over the history of thought 
since the revolution of Descartes, culling from conflicting schools 
and systems data and principles which might be welded into a com- 
prehensive theory of human nature, a whole for which he supplies 
the unifying basis and method. 

After publication of the first volume of the Elements of the Phi- 
losophy of the Human Mind in 1792, there was a period of twenty-two 
years during which Stewart was prevented by ill-health and by the 
pressure of his duties from continuing that treatise. The principal 
work published in that interval was the Philosophical Essays of i8io. 8 
There are two sets of essays in this work, the first comprising "Essays 
of a Metaphysical Purport," the second "Essays Relative to Matters 
of Taste" (as Hamilton terms them) j these last, which will be treated 
of here, have been almost wholly ignored by philosophers and scholars 
alike. It may be a useful preliminary to state succinctly the place of 
the aesthetic essays in the corpus of Stewart's works. Stewart en- 
visioned his entire philosophy of mind as consisting of three parts: 
the three volumes of the Elements deal with the intellectual powers ; 
the two volumes of The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers 
of Man comprise the second part of the system 5 the third portion of 
Stewart's plan he never published, but Hamilton includes in the Works 
two volumes of Lectures on Political Economy compiled from MSS 
and student notes. 4 The Philosophical Essays are an interlude in this 
larger program. 

The first part of the Essays "may be regarded," Stewart explains, 
"as a comment on some elementary and fundamental questions which 
have divided the opinions of philosophers in the eighteenth cen- 
tury." 5 Stewart is concerned to enforce that view of the origin of our 
ideas which is the leading point of his philosophy and of Reid's. The 
view is, that though all our knowledge arises on the occasion of sen- 
sations supplied through our external senses, these sensations do 
not constitute this knowledge. Accompanying sensation is perception, 
the apprehension of some external object which is the cause of the 
sensation 5 we have, moreover, through consciousness, knowledge of 
the operation of the mental faculties 3 and beyond ideas both of per- 
ception and of consciousness, a third class of ideas arises in the mind 

286 Beauttjuly Sublime, and Picturesque 

by a suggestion of the understanding consequent on sensation and 
operation of the faculties ideas of our own existence, of personal 
identity, of time, motion, space and its dimensions, truth, causation, 
the uniformity of nature, God, and so forth. All those ideas, in short, 
which Hume attempted to analyze are here taken to be supplied 
on appropriate occasions by an occult mechanism or original law of our 
nature. And the distinction of sensation from perception disposes of 
what Stewart conceives to be the fundamental error of Locke and his 
followers, an error prevailing since the Greeks, that ideas are the 
immediate objects of knowledge. 

But it is not my present purpose to enter upon a discussion of 
Stewart's metaphysics. It suffices to say that Stewart attempts in the 
first four essays of his first part to show how the erroneous speculations 
of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, the followers of Locke in France, and the 
English physiological metaphysicians (Hartley, Priestley, and Dar- 
win) arise from misconceptions of the nature and origin of ideas. The 
last of the essays of the first part, "On the Tendency of Some Late 
Philological Speculations," treats of the theories expounded by Home 
Tooke in The Diversions of Purley, and serves as a kind of link be- 
tween the metaphysical and the aesthetic essays. Stewart refutes at 
length and with skill Tooke's principles that all the meanings of a 
given word have a common element, and that this element, the es- 
sence of the meaning, is fixed by the etymology of the word. Tooke's 
theory is connected with the foregoing essays by the circumstance that 
it implies a theory about the origin of ideas: since the words desig- 
nating the various phenomena of mind were originally borrowed from 
the sensible circumstances of matter, Tooke's etymological explana- 
tions constitute an implicit induction to the effect that "the only real 
knowledge we possess relates to the objects of our external senses $ and 
that we can annex no idea to the word mind itself, but that of matter 
in the most subtile and attenuated form which imagination can lend 
it." 6 This theory Stewart had examined in the earlier essays, and he 
needs here only to refute the alleged evidence of language in its 
favor. Here as elsewhere, Stewart carefully avoids confusing genetic 
problems with constitutive. He reprobates strongly the pretensions of 
philologists to direct us in the study of the mind: ". . . to appeal to 
etymology in a philosophical argument, (excepting, perhaps, in those 
cases where the word itself is of philosophical origin,) is altogether 
nugatory, and can serve, at the best, to throw an amusing light on the 
laws which regulate the operations of human fancy." 7 Yet though 
philologists "are more likely to bewilder than to direct vis in the study 

Dugald Stewart 287 

of the Mind, they may yet (as I shall attempt to exemplify in the 
Second Part of this volume) supply many useful materials towards 
a history of its natural progress; more particularly towards a his- 
tory of Imagination, considered in its relation to the principles of 
Criticism." 8 

This slender bond is the transition to the second series of essays: 
Stewart's aim in the essays on beauty and sublimity is to trace the 
progress of the mind in its apprehension of those characters, and the 
fashion in which a common appellation comes to be applied to diverse 
qualities. The scope of the series is conventional: "On the Beautiful," 
"On the Sublime," "On Taste," and "On the Culture of Certain In- 
tellectual Habits Connected with the First Elements of Taste." The 
treatment which Stewart gives these topics, with its careful reference 
to previous writers and its constant effort to bring together the best 
that had been written into one systematic conspectus, justifies the role 
which I have assigned to him in the speculation of the period. Stewart 
refers to Shaftesbury, Addison, Hutcheson, Hume, Akenside, Ho- 
garth, Gerard, Burke, Beattie, Blair, Reynolds, Lord Kames, Gilpin, 
Price, Knight, Repton, Alison, Twining, Reid, and Adam Smith, and 
among the French to Boileau, Huet, Pere Andre, Du Bos, Buffier, 
Diderot, D'Alembert, Voltaire, La Harpe, Montesquieu, the Abbe 
Girard, and the Abbe De Lille; few names are missing from the 
roster. 9 

It is natural for a writer of eclectic temper, coming after a long suc- 
cession of diverse theories, to be concerned with the ambiguity of 
terms, for it is in part this ambiguity which allows such multiplicity 
of theories. Stewart considers that all previous writers on beauty had 
made an important methodological error: all had supposed that there 
was ultimately one common essence of beauty pervading all the 
various qualities called beautiful. 

We speak [Stewart urges] of beautiful colours, beautiful forms, beau- 
tiful pieces of music: We speak also of the beauty of virtue; of the 
beauty of poetical composition, of the beauty of style in prose; of the 
beauty of a mathematical theorem; of the beauty of a philosophical 
discovery. On the other hand, we do not speak of beautiful tastes, or 
of beautiful smells; nor do we apply this epithet to the agreeable soft- 
ness, or smoothness, or warmth of tangible objects, considered solely 
in their relation to our sense of feeling. . . . 

It has long been a favourite problem with philosophers, to ascertain 
the common quality or qualities which entitles a thing to the denomina- 
tion of beautiful, but the success of their speculations has been so in- 

288 Beauttful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

considerable, that little can be inferred from them but the impossibility 
of the problem to which they have been directed. 10 

Speculations endeavoring to find properties in things corresponding 
to these usages of language originate, Stewart conjectures, "in a 
prejudice which has descended to modern times from the scholastic 
ages; that when a word admits of a variety of significations, these 
different significations must all be species of the same genus, and 
must consequently include some essential idea common to every indi- 
vidual to which the generic term can be applied." n But a genetic 
view of language dispels this illusion: 

I shall begin [he writes] with supposing that the letters A, B, C, D, E, 
denote a series of objects; that A possesses some one quality m common 
with B; B a quality in common with C . . . [et cetera] 5 while, at 
the same time, no quality can be found which belongs in common to 
any three objects in the series. Is it not conceivable, that the affinity be- 
tween A and B may produce a transference of the name of the first to 
the second ; and that, in consequence of the other affinities which connect 
the remaining objects together, the same name may pass m succession 
from B to C ; from C to D ; and from D to E ? In this manner, a com- 
mon appellation will arise between A and E, although the two objects 
may, in their nature and properties, be so widely distant from each other, 
that no stretch of imagination can conceive how the thoughts were led 
from the former to the latter. 12 

This theory of transitive meanings is adopted from a remark in Payne 
Knight's Analytical Inquiry and converted by Stewart into the special 
analytical device of his aesthetic system. The utility of his method, 
as Stewart sees it, lies in diverting philosophers from vain attempts 
to discover a common essence in things possessing a common name 
through habitual association, and in finding, through tracing out the 
associations underlying the transitive meanings, a basis for discussion 
of the qualities to be studied. Indeed, Stewart repeatedly insists with 
undue modesty that he does not aim at a theory of the beautiful or 
the sublime, but only at the prolegomenon to such a theory; con- 
cluding his essay on sublimity, he reminds his readers that his aim 
is "not to investigate the principles on which the various elements 
of Sublimity give pleasure to the Mind; but to trace the associations, 
in consequence of which the common name of Sublimity has been 
applied to all of them, and to illustrate the influence of this com- 
mon name in re-acting on the Imagination and the Taste. . . ." 1S 
This apparent limitation led Jeffrey to remark that the essay on beauty 

Dugald Stewart 289 

is "in reality, a sort of -philological dissertation." 14 But explanation 
of the transitive meanings of terms requires much prior explication 
of the real phenomena to which the terms refer, and Stewart's work 
is "philological" only in the sense in which Plato's Refubhc is an 
effort at definition. 

Applying the device Stewart has adopted, the first problem is to 
find the "A" the original application of the term Beauty. It refers 
primitively, Stewart concludes, to objects of sight $ more narrowly, 
"The first ideas of beauty formed by the mind are, in all probability, 
derived from colours. Long before infants receive any pleasures from 
the beauties of form or of motion, (both of which require, for their 
perception, a certain effort of attention and of thought,) their eye 
may be caught and delighted with brilliant colouring, or with splendid 
illumination. 35 15 Stewart's approach makes it almost inevitable that 
color will be the original beauty, for, tracing the meaning of "beauty" 
genetically, we begin with qualities which affect sight alone and 
color and light are the only such qualities. This beauty of color is 
for Stewart in large part a mechanical or organic pleasure, like that 
of harmony to the ear $ and these organic pleasures are "the parent 
stock on which all our more complicated feelings of Beauty are after- 
wards grafted, as well as the means by which the various exciting 
causes of these feelings are united and consolidated under the same 
common appellation. . . ." 16 

Form is conjoined in our experience with color, and the pleasures 
attached to the perception of certain forms blend with those arising 
from color so that the term "beautiful" is transitively applied to 
form, and then through form to motion. It is not, Stewart reiterates, 

in consequence of the discovery of any quality belonging in common 
to colours, to forms, and to motion, considered abstractly, that the same 
word is now applied to them indiscriminately. They all, indeed, agree in 
this, that they give pleasure to the spectator; but there cannot, I think, 
be a doubt, that they please on principles essentially different; and that 
the transference of the word Beauty, from the first to the last, anses 
solely from their undistinguishable co-operation in producing the same 
agreeable effect, m consequence of their being all perceived by the same 
organ, and at the same instant. 17 

Concerned chiefly with the bond uniting the various qualities under 
a common term, Stewart does not always pause to account for the 
origin of the pleasures they afford. For the most part, he is content 
to refer to Alison's Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste for 

290 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

explanations of the separate beauties, though allowing more to or- 
ganic impression in the case of color. (Stewart's reliance upon Alison, 
his friend and whilom student, is one of the few notices which the 
first edition of Alison's work received ; it was the second edition, 
championed by Jeffrey, which swept the day for associationism in 
aesthetics.) That Stewart makes no effort to account for this pleasing 
organic effect of colors is, I think, a serious lacuna in the system 5 
the pleasing effect of harmony is very well accounted for by the 
physiology of the ear, but no such account is forthcoming for the al- 
legedly analogous case of color. 

Stewart is emphatic in insisting upon the complexity of beauty, 
and he censures the theories of his predecessors as extending too far 
critical inferences proper only to some part of the phenomena. The 
opinions of Burke especially, recommended by so illustrious a name, 
are "calculated to bias and mislead the taste." 18 The physiological 
hypothesis of Burke Stewart scarcely pauses to overthrow ; it is, of 
course, directly contrary to his own principle that inductive mental 
philosophy may legitimately concern itself with ascertaining the laws 
which regulate the connection of matter and mind, but not with 
efforts to explain in what manner they are united so that theories 
of subtle fluids, vibrations, or (as with Burke) tensions and relaxa- 
tions, are the merest conjectures, to be eschewed by sober inquirers. 19 
But the chief weight of Stewart's criticism falls on the limitation of 
Burkeian beauty consequent on Burke's supposition that there is some 
common quality in the pleasing objects of the different external 
senses. It is this principle which leads Burke to find smoothness so 
essential to beauty. Stewart's genetic approach, in contrast, limits 
beauty to such qualities as affect through the sight 5 there is, of course, 
association among the senses, so that smoothness may become beauti- 
ful by association with perceptions of sight. But this effect is limited 
to objects destined to be handled, and the principle is inapplicable 
to objects which we do not think of touching because of their magni- 
tude or situation. The beauty of smoothness is traced equally, more- 
over, to other kinds of associations than tactile to the reflecting 
properties of smooth surfaces, to sexual associations, to associations of 
utility or design, and to custom. 20 

But since all of these associations may be in some circumstances in- 
effectual, or counteracted, or even reversed, the rough and angular 
may also be beautiful and Stewart begins to enumerate the various 
qualities and objects which Uvedale Price, from a similar awareness 
of the limitations of Burkeian beauty, had termed pcturesque: 

Dugald Stewart 291 

According to Mr. Price [writes Stewart], the circumstances which 
please, both m natural scenes and in the compositions of the painter, 
are of two kinds the Beautiful and the Picturesque. These, he thinks, 
are radically and essentially distinct. . . . 

To this conclusion Mr. Price was naturally, or rather necessarily led, 
by his admission, at his first outset, of Mr. Burke's peculiar tenets as 
so many incontrovertible axioms. In the progress of his subsequent re- 
searches, finding numberless ingredients in agreeable compositions, that 
could not be brought under Burke's enumeration of the qualities which 
"go to the composition of the beautiful/' he was forced to arrange them 
under some new name; whereas, he ought rather to have concluded, 
that the enumeration was partial and defective, and extended the ap- 
plication of the word Beauty, to whatever qualities in natural objects 
affect the mind with agreeable emotions, through the medium of sight. 21 

Now, both Burke and Price had objected to so general an exten- 
sion of the term "beauty/ 7 on the grounds that it lumped together 
indiscriminately characters really dissimilar. Stewart thinks to avoid 
such confusion by drawing a distinction: some elements of beauty, 
he urges, are intrinsically pleasing, while others please only in a 
state of combination. Stewart makes little of this latter, "relative" 
beauty, though it includes much of what Price terms "picturesque. 77 
But Pnce 7 s sense of "picturesque" does not escape censure: "The 
meaning he [Price] has annexed to the word picturesque is equally 
exceptionable with the limited and arbitrary notion concerning the 
beauujul, which he has adopted from Mr. Burke. In both cases, he 
has departed widely from established use 5 and, in consequence of 
this, when he comes to compare . . . the picturesque and beautiful 
together, he has given to many observations, equally just and refined, 
an air of paradox. . . ." 22 Stewart prefers Gilpin's sense of "pic- 
turesque 77 that which is suited to the purposes of painters in which 
event "picturesque 77 becomes not the name of an aesthetic character, 
but a qualifying epithet "to limit the meaning of the generic name 
Beauty in particular instances, 77 as "romantic, 77 "classical, 77 "pathetic, 77 
and other such terms may also do. The picturesque is not quite a 
species of beauty, however, for things may be picturesque which are 
not beautiful : this is the old problem of pleasing imitations of unpleas- 
ant originals. Stewart notes a variety of causes for our seeing beauty 
in representations of what is offensive: the pleasure of imitation it- 
self - y the annihilation in a picture of what is offensive to other senses 
than sight 3 the influence of selection and emphasis (which are signs 
of the fancy and taste of the artist) ; the skill of execution and design. 

2g2 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

The second of these points is evidently drawn from Knight} but I 
do not see how Stewart can consistently admit it with respect to touch 
and his examples (pictures of dead fish, &e.) refer rather to smell, 
the objects of which are less closely associated with visual properties 
and are never seen as the objects of touch are. The fourth point paral- 
lels Hume's argument in "On Tragedy"; Stewart criticizes Hume, 
however, for carrying the point too far. Neither Stewart nor Hume 
has noted an important distinction necessary to be drawn: pictorial 
representations of terrific or pathetic objects (crucifixions, &c.) may 
yield an actual conversion of the passions, and be more agreeable 
than gayer scenes 5 where, however, the original is merely disgusting, 
the mind is not stirred and no conversion can take place, the unpleas- 
antness of the original being simply subducted from the beauty of 
artistry and representation except, perhaps, for the connoisseur, who 
is really delighting in the boldness of the artist m addressing his pow- 
ers to such untoward subjects. Stewart overlooks, finally, the im- 
portant influence of change of scale which Price had pointed out. 

These criticisms have not implied any condemnation of Price's 
taste: "I not only agree with him in almost all the critical observa- 
tions which he has introduced in the course of the discussion," Stew- 
art declares, "but I esteem his work, as eminently calculated, in its 
practical tendency, to reform and to improve the public taste." 23 But 
with Price's causal explanations, Stewart is disposed to cavil. A dis- 
tinguishing feature of all the writers of the picturesque school Gilpin, 
Price, and Knight was their insistence upon the aesthetic significance 
of lines, colors, textures taken abstractly from the concretes in which 
they occur, and this whether the effect of such qualities was attributed 
to immediate agency or to association. Stewart, in contrast, is in- 
clined to lay more stress on associations involving the concrete objects 
as wholes, less on those associations which the separate properties 
carry. He complains that the "ingenious" Gilpin and Price had been 
led to ascribe more effect to the mere visible appearance than really 
belongs to it. His own emphasis on associations with concrete wholes 
is illustrated by analysis of the picturesqueness of the ass: Stewart 
points to its appearance in the Bible, in Aesop, and other writings 
its use by the vagrant poor its own manners its appearance in Renais- 
sance painting; Price and Gilpin emphasize instead its peculiarities of 
form, coloring, and roughness of coat. Stewart suggests ingeniously 
that these peculiarities may possess for the painter "important and 
obvious advantages over those which are more decidedly beautiful 3 
inasmuch as these last, by the immediate pleasure they communicate 

Dug aid Stewart 293 

to the organ, have a tendency to arrest the progress of our thoughts, 
and to engage the whole o our attention to themselves." 24 The 
picturesque of physical properties thus becomes ancillary to the poetical 
picturesque by facilitating association. Only in the poetical sense, as 
referring to the significance and expression of concrete objects, can 
"picturesque" be opposed to "beautiful" opposed, however, only to 
immediate visible beauty, for the poetical picturesque pleases as a 
sign of understood beauties in the case of originals which are displeas- 
ing immediately. 

Having in this way vindicated his conception of beauty by an 
argument treating partly of terminology, partly of causes, against 
objections which the picturesque school or disciples of Burke might 
raise, Stewart turns to further generalizations of beauty and the cor- 
responding transitions of the term. In all these transitions and gen- 
eralizations, "the visible object) if it is not the physical cause, furnishes, 
at least, the occasion of the pleasure we feel 5 and it is on the eye done 
that any organic impression is supposed to be made." 25 Objects of 
touch, as we have found, come to be seen as beautiful 5 in some meas- 
ure even objects of smell or taste enhance beauty, through association 
of conceptions of their pleasing sensations with the perceptions of the 
visible beauty. 26 But a difficulty remains: for the epithet "beautiful" 
appears to be directly and immediately applicable to objects of hear- 
ing, though sounds are not judged of by the eye. Certain peculiarities 
of sounds, however, connect their beauties with those immediately 
perceived by the eye. There is, first, a pcturesque effect of sounds by 
association they may call up particular scenes, as "the clack of a mill, 
heard at a distance, conjures up at once to the mind's eye the simple 
and cheerful scene which it announces." 27 More important is the ex- 
pressive power of sounds naturally pathetic; thus "the word Beauty, 
which is at first transferred from the face to the mind, comes to 
be re-transferred from the mind to the voice ; more especially, when 
its tones express such passions as we have been led ... to consider 
as beautiful." 28 There is, further, the significant power of sounds 
through conventional speech, whereby they present pictures to the 
imagination. Eye and ear, finally, are associated 

as the great inlets of our acquired knowledge; as the only media by 
which different Minds can communicate together; and as the organs 
by which we receive from the material world the two classes of pleasure, 
which, while they surpass all the rest in variety and duration, are the 
most completely removed from the grossness of animal indulgence, and 
the most nearly allied to the enjoyments of the intellect. The uncon- 

Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

sciousness we have, in both these senses, of any local impression ^ on 
our bodily frame, may, perhaps, help to explain the peculiar facility 
with which their perceptions blend themselves with other pleasures of a 
rank still nobler and more refined. It is these two classes, accordingly, 
of organical pleasures, which fall exclusively under the cognizance of 
. . . intellectual Taste. . . , 29 

Stewart of course acknowledges the original and mechanical pleasure 
of harmony 3 he has detailed all these connections between sight and 
hearing with the view of accounting for the extension of the term 
"beauty" from the objects of one to those of the other. 

The intellectual and moral associations in which beauty chiefly 
(though not originally) consists, are treated very briefly by Stewart, 
since he can refer to Alison's work for illustrations, and needs only 
to point out the "transitions" involved. Yet there is a curious contrast 
between the accounts of Stewart and of Alison. Stewart declares that 
the term "beauty" is transferred to moral qualities through association, 
through those associations which are grounded on that "intimate and 
inseparable union, which, in the human face, connects soul and body 
with each other. ... To the peculiar intimacy of this connexion 
... it seems to be owing, that the word Beauty comes ... to be 
applied to certain moral qualities considered abstractly. The qualities 
which are thus characterized in ordinary discourse are, in truth, 
exactly those which it gives us the greatest delight to see expressed 
in the countenance ; or such as have a tendency ... to improve the 
visible beauty which the features exhibit." 30 Stewart is in accord with 
Alison in urging that beauty is chiefly moral and intellectual, and 
that it is communicated to material properties by association 5 but the 
arguments they follow to reach this position are radically opposite. 
Alison's technique is to apply induction directly to each trait of the 
beautiful and reduce each equally to its mental root 5 Stewart's is to 
trace the history of the mind as the concept is enlarged. And Stew- 
art's history begins with the material beauty of color, in contradiction 
to Alison's great generalization that there is no material beauty. 
The methodological difference itself may in turn be accounted for 
in part by recalling that Stewart undertook his aesthetic inquiry as 
a part of a more general program of ascertaining the origin of our 
ideas: the historical method follows in consequence j "our attention," 
as Stewart says, "is directed to the natural history of the Human 
Mind, and to its natural progress in the employment of speech." 31 

A conspicuous instance of the tendency of the doctrine of general 
ideas to mislead theorists is afforded by the system of Reynolds. Like 

Dug aid Stewart 295 

most writers of his age (and of our own), Stewart takes the Idler 
papers as a definitive statement of Reynolds' principles 5 and it must 
be owned that these papers (and the somewhat simpler theory of 
Buffier which Stewart considers conjointly) are obnoxious to serious 
criticism. Stewart grants (much too readily, I think) the "fact" that 
in every species, the central or most common form is the most beauti- 
ful, but the inference from this supposed fact, that beauty depends 
upon custom, he combats. His approach throughout has been to trace 
the transitive application of terms following lines of association from 
initial intrinsic effects, rather than to refer to habits formed by fre- 
quency distributions j and he of course points out, not only that 
Reynolds' theory affords no way of comparing species in point of 
beauty, but that even applied to things of the same kind it entails 
the corollary that no individual object can give pleasure previous 
to comparison with others of the kind. "The only point in dispute," 
Stewart concludes, "is, whether the individual objects please in conse- 
quence of their approximation to the usual forms and colours of 
Nature j or whether Nature herself is not pronounced to be Beauti- 
ful, in consequence of the regular profusion in which she exhibits 
forms and colours intrinsically pleasing?" 32 

The second portion of the essay, "On the Beautiful, When Pre- 
sented to the Power of Imagination," is abruptly truncated, and we 
are left to conjecture by analogy Stewart's thought on the beauty 
of virtue, of philosophical theories, of geometrical propositions. All 
that Stewart performs is, to point out the leading causes of the dif- 
ferences between the beauties of imagination and those of percep- 
tion between the beauties of presentation and those of representa- 
tion. It must be noted that imagination, in Stewart's system, is a com- 
pound faculty. Comprised in it are fancy , "a power of summoning 
up, at pleasure, a particular class of ideas, and of ideas related to 
each other in a particular manner" j 33 conception, "that power of the 
mind which enables it to form a notion of an absent object of per- 
ception, or of a sensation which it has formerly felt" 5 34 abstraction, 
the "power of considering certain qualities or attributes of an object 
apart from the rest . . . the power which the understanding has, 
of separating the combinations which are presented to it"j 35 and 
judgment or taste, "which selects the materials and directs their 
combination." 3e The function of this compound faculty is "to make 
a selection of qualities and of circumstances from a variety of dif- 
ferent objects, and by combining and disposing these, to form a 
new creation of its own." 37 Stewart's pleasures of the imagination do 

29 6 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

not, then, correspond to Addison's, nor yet do they correspond pre- 
cisely to Addison's secondary pleasures singly, despite Stewart's decla- 
ration that "philosophical precision indispensably requires an ex- 
clusive limitation of that title to what Mr. Addison calls secondary 
pleasures, because, although ultimately founded on pleasures ^ de- 
rived from our perceptive powers, they are yet ... characterized 
by some very remarkable circumstances peculiar to themselves." 38 
For Addison's secondary pleasures are often pleasures, in Stewards 
language, of mere conception and memory $ Stewart's imagination is 
a poetical faculty creating a new world from the materials of the 
world of perception. 

In imaginative conception the predominance of visual images is 
still greater than that of sight in perception, it is the -picture which 
fixes attention, and "its agreeable concomitants add to the effect 
rather by the association of fugitive impressions or feelings, than by 
that of Conceptions, on which we are able steadily to dwell." 39 It is, 
indeed, through the image that poetical composition comes to be 
judged beautiful: 

In the same manner in which the Eye (while we actually look abroad 
upon nature) attaches to its appropriate objects so great a variety of 
pleasures, both physical and moral, so to the poet. Language serves as 
a common channel or organ for uniting all the agreeable impressions of 
which the senses, the understanding, and the heart, are susceptible: 
And as the word Beauty is naturally transferred from colours and forms 
to the other pleasing qualities which may be associated with these, and 
to the various moral qualities of which they may be expressive; so the 
same word is insensibly extended from those images which form at 
once the characteristical feature, and the most fascinating charm of 
poetry, to the numberless other sources of delight which it opens. 40 

No pronouncement could make clearer the contrast between this 
genetic mode of aesthetic analysis and the Aristotelian, wherein beauty 
resides in the magnitude and order of an organized whole, and that of 
a poem in its architectonics rather than in its diction. 

The essay, "On the Sublime," Stewart tells us, was stimulated by 
the controversy between Price and Knight over the doctrine of Burke 5 
and Stewart resolves the issue by a line of reasoning perfectly 
analogous to that of the essay on beauty. Previous writers had taken 
for granted that there must be some common quality in all objects 
characterized as sublime. "In their researches, however, concerning 
the essential constituent of Sublimity, the conclusions to which they 

Dugald Stewart 297 

have been led are so widely different from each other, that one 
would scarcely suppose, on a superficial view, they could possibly 
relate to the same class of phenomena ; a circumstance the more 
remarkable, that, in the statement of these phenomena, philosophical 
critics are, with a few trifling exceptions, unanimously agreed." 41 
Stewart sees in the conjectures and partial truths of Burke and Hel- 
vetius, Blair and Knight, Kames and Longinus, "a great deal of 
false refinement ... in bending facts to preconceived systems" 
and opens his explication with the declaration that "none of these 
theorists have paid sufficient attention to the word Sublime in its 
literal and primitive sense 5 or to the various natural associations 
founded on the physical and moral concomitants of great Altitude" 42 
The clew of etymology leads us from the maze: sublimity is con- 
nected with altitude originally, and the problem becomes the dis- 
covery of "the grounds of that natural transition which the mind is 
disposed to make from Sublimity, literally so called, to the numerous 
metaphorical uses of the term." 43 A note added after the essay was 
completed acknowledges Hume's prior discovery of the opposition 
of sublimity to gravitation, though Stewart objects to Hume's ex- 
planation of the superior effect of the sublimity of time to that of 
space, and that of past to future time (denying the fact itself in this 
latter case). 44 In Hume, the argument is given rigorously in terms 
of an opposition between the influences of passion and association 
on the imagination; opposition, if not overwhelming, stimulates the 
soul, and hence moving against the natural order of association causes 
such an expansion or exaltation. Removal in time "opposes" the 
natural flow of ideas more than removal in space because time seems 
made up of discontinuous events, and recession into the past more 
than removal into the future because it opposes the sequence of 
cause and effect. Stewart may be said to be systematically blind to 
Hume's argument, for by it the sublime of time would be co-original 
with the sublime of space, and the sublime of horizontal extent co- 
original with that of vertical. The only real difference between Hume 
and Stewart is, that Stewart insists (consistently with his program 
and method) in finding some one root sublimity, and connecting all 
other sublimities with this by historical analysis. In any event, the 
feeling caused by altitude is further qualified, in Stewart's view, by 
association with the upward growth of plants, the erect form of man, 
and the upward development of the human body coinciding with the 
advancement of the mind all which circumstances tend to give an 

298 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

allegorical character to literal sublimity, as does also the rising, cul- 
minating, and setting of the heavenly bodies, with all the analogies 
their progress suggests. 

It is pretty obvious how Stewart can explain the connection of 
power with sublimity, while maintaining that taking power as itself 
the root of the sublime does not give so natural and easy a history of 
the development of the concept as does Stewart's own notion of an 
automatic psychological process stimulated by perception of physical 
height. But it is curious that terror makes no part of literal sublimity 
for Stewart not even in analysis of the sublimity of depth. The sub- 
lime of power is closely associated for Stewart with the religious 
sublime, with what he conceives to be a universal tendency for reli- 
gious sentiments to carry the thoughts up ward ; and, indeed, Stewart 
sees much of the sublime of the material world as a reflection of cre- 
ative power, though this in turn is ultimately dependent upon physical 
altitude for its sublimity. Stewart is led to rest upon comparatively 
insecure bases sublimities which in his own system could be given 
a more certain ground. Eternity and immensity, for instance, are made 
a part of the religious sublime, although their sublimity might be 
very readily explained in other ways by extension, for instance, of 
the notion of opposing gravity. And when Stewart tells us that "in- 
stead of considering, with Mr. Burke, Terror as the ruling principle 
of the religious sublime^ it would be nearer the truth to say, that the 
Terrible derives whatever character of Sublimity belongs to it from 
religious associations," 45 he has evidently been misled by his enthu- 
siasm for following out a slender thread of association. Heights, and 
more especially depths, are dangerous and terrible from infancy 5 
their sublimity is original: why slight this early and obvious connec- 
tion between sublimity and terror? Happily, Stewart's taste triumphs 
over his piety, and he in effect retracts this position by acknowledg- 
ing in the succeeding chapter other connections of elevation with ter- 
ror and power (especially, Stewart notes with formal magniloquence, 
that of "masses of water, in the form of a mountain torrent, or of a 
cataract," which "present to us one of the most impressive images of 
irresistible impetuosity which terrestrial phenomena afford . . ." 4e ). 
To the admiration and awe excited by such force is superadded an 
emotion of wonder when the actual fall is prevented by some extra- 
ordinary means ; in a Gothic cathedral, for instance, "it is this natural 
apprehension of impending danger, checked and corrected every mo- 
ment by a rational conviction of our security, which seems to produce 
that silent and pleasing awe which we experience on entering within 

Dugald Stewart 299 

their walls. . . ." 47 Knight's sublime of energy is easily brought 
within Stewart's system, for it is merely relative, "a reflection from 
the sublimity of the Power to which it is opposed." 48 

Stewart is able to find additional support for his notion of the orig- 
inal and literal import of "sublimity" in the empathic signs of sub- 
lime emotion. That "the Mind is naturally elevated, by the true Sub- 
lime, and, assuming a certain proud and erect attitude, exults and 
glories, as if it had itself produced what it has only heard," was no- 
ticed by Longinus himself. 49 The analogy of greatness of mind with 
greatness of stature is, Stewart declares, "the ground-work of the 
account of Sublimity in writing, given by Longinus , who, although 
he speaks only of the effect of sublimity on the Mind, plainly iden- 
tifies that effect with its Bodily expression . . . [which] may be re- 
garded as a demonstrative proof, that, in the complicated effect which 
sublimity produces, the primary idea which has given name to the 
whole, always retains a decided predominance over the other ingre- 
dients." 50 

The analysis of taste in Stewart's work is less a fresh insight into 
that outworn topic than a restatement of familiar truths within the 
special framework of his aesthetic system. Like all the more philo- 
sophical writers of his age, Stewart regards taste as a compound and 
derivative f acuity j his originality consists in employing, characteris- 
tically, a genetic approach. Gerard and Alison had analyzed taste as 
it exists in a cultivated mind, says Stewart, "but it did not fall under 
the design of any of these writers to trace the growth of Taste from 
its first seeds in the constitution of our nature 5 or to illustrate the 
analogy which it exhibits, in some of the intellectual processes con- 
nected with it, to what takes place in various other acquired endow- 
ments of the understanding. It is in this point of view that I propose 
to consider it. . . ." 51 These other "acquired endowments of the un- 
derstanding" include not only the acquired perceptions of sight but 
the phenomena of reading and writing, of mathematical calculation 
and inference in those accustomed to it, and so forth: all are appar- 
ently simple and instantaneous acts of the mind, all are really habits 
the acquisition of which is forgotten or unattended to. 52 In the case 
of taste, the apparent originality of the faculty is an illusion the more 
readily supported as the pleasures and pains which its perceptions 
excite attract attention to the effects rather than the causes. 

Consistently with the plan of Stewart's entire mental philosophy, 
the elements of taste and the mode of their acquisition are determined 
inductively 5 in analyzing the effects of the ingredients of beauty, "we 

300 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

must proceed," Stewart declares, "on the same general principles by 
which we are guided in investigating the physical and chemical prop- 
erties of material substances 5 that is, we must have recourse to a 
series of observations and experiments on beautiful objects of various 
kinds 5 attending diligently to the agreeable or disagreeable effects 
we experience, in the case of these diversified combinations." 53 These 
observations and comparisons can not be made precise and quantita- 
tive by measuring devices: the appeal is to pleasant and unpleasant 
emotion. But this disadvantage is compensated for by the ease with 
which experiments in taste can be made ideally. 

The faculty consists in the discriminating perception of the circum- 
stances which enhance or detract from aesthetic effect 5 and its objects 
fall into certain general classes: "First, those which derive their ef- 
fect from the organical adaptation of the human frame to the external 
universe j and, Secondly, those which please in consequence of associ- 
ations gradually formed by experience." This latter and more exten- 
sive class may be subdivided into "such beauties as owe their existence 
to associations resulting necessarily from the common circumstances 
of the human race," and "beauties which have no merit but what de- 
pends on custom and fashion; or on certain peculiarities in the situ- 
ation and history of the individual." 34 If human nature is conceived 
to include the natural condition, as well as the natural constitution of 
man, those beauties resulting from universal associations together 
with the organical beauties "fall under the consideration of that sort 
of criticism which forms a branch of the Philosophy of the Human 
Mind" 5 and to these Universal Beauties corresponds Philosophical 
Taste, which "enables a writer or an artist to rise superior to the times 
in which he lives, and emboldens him to trust his reputation to the 
suffrages of the human race, and of the ages which are yet to come." 55 
To the Arbitrary Beauties dependent upon accidental association cor- 
responds a lower taste, "that humbler, though more profitable sa- 
gacity, which teaches the possessor how to suit his manufactures to 
the market. . . ." 56 Stewart betrays, in the terms in which he couches 
this distinction, the romantic bias of his era 5 for the popular taste is 
grounded in a certain facility of association acquired through inter- 
course with society, a habit of mind which, Stewart writes, renders 
both the beautiful and the right a function of fashion; whereas the 
philosophical taste "implies a sensibility, deep and permanent, to 
those objects of affection, admiration, and reverence, which interested 
the youthful heart, while yet a stranger to the opinions and ways of 
the world," and is characterized by "strong domestic and local at- 

Dugald Stewart 301 

tachments, accompanied with that enthusiastic love of Nature, Sim- 
plicity, and Truth, which, in every department, both of art and of 
science, is the best and surest presage of Genius." 57 
In taste which exists perfected, we find 

an understanding, discriminating, comprehensive, and unprejudiced; 
united with a love of truth and of nature, and with a temper superior 
to the irritation of little passions. While it implies a spirit of accurate 
observation and of patient induction, applied to the most fugitive and 
evanescent class of our mental phenomena, it evinces that power of 
separating universal associations from such as are local or personal, 
which, more than any other quality of the mind, is the foundation of 
good sense, both in scientific pursuits, and in the conduct of life. 58 

Beyond the primary pleasures which beauty affords, there is a sec- 
ondary pleasure of taste derived from remarking the skill of the art- 
ist in his performance, which technical taste, unlike the primary, is 
susceptible of pain as well as pleasure, for it is offended with blem- 
ishes in artistry. Higher than this technical taste is the taste of the 
connoisseur, a taste based more on the study of models than of rules, 
"secretly, and often unconsciously, guided by an idolatrous compari- 
son of what it sees, with the works of its favourite masters." 59 But 
the indigenous taste formed by cultivating and disciplining native 
capacity for the primary pleasures is alone entitled to be considered 
true and just. The pleasures of artful design are, for Stewart as for 
all the writers of his tradition, inferior to those of expression and of 

In the final essay of his series, Stewart examines the culture and 
training of the imagination, and his observations are penetrating and 
sometimes original. Instead of merely repeating the saw that the 
pleasures of imagination are interposed betwixt those of sense and of 
intellect, and fitted to allure the mind to virtue, he develops with 
some subtlety the suggestion that in cases where a speculative bias has 
caused the neglect of imagination and of taste, philosophical criticism 
could serve as a link connecting habits of abstract thought with the 
more ornamental accomplishments, whereas when the powers of im- 
agination have gained an undue predominance over the other mental 
powers, this same philosophical criticism could serve as transition to 
the general philosophy of mind. Early culture of imagination, 
Stewart insists, will subject it to the supremacy of the rational pow- 
ers in the more serious concerns of life, the "momentary belief with 
which the visions of imagination are always accompanied, and upon 

302 Beautiful, Sublime, and Picturesque 

which many of its pleasures depend, will continue unshaken; while 
that -permanent or habitual belief, which they are apt to produce, 
where it gains the ascendant over our nobler principles, will vanish 
for ever." 60 Nor is Stewart the dupe of the fashionable primitivism 
of the period; "when I speak," he warns, 

of a cultivated Imagination, I mean an imagination which has acquired 
such a degree of activity as to delight in its own exertions; to delight 
in conjuring up those ideal combinations which withdraw the mind 
from the present objects of sense, and transport it into a new world. 
Now of this activity and versatility of imagination, I find no trace among 
rude tribes. Their diction is, indeed, highly metaphorical; but the meta- 
phors they employ are either the unavoidable consequences of an im- 
perfect language, or are inspired by the mechanical impulse of passion. 
In both instances, imagination operates to a certain degree; but in 
neither is imagination the primary cause of the effect, inasmuch as in 
the one, it is excited by passion, and in the other, called forth by the 
pressure of necessity. 61 

Stewart's work (review of which is now complete) did not have 
the influence which he anticipated: he did not lay that true foundation 
on which followers were to build, for these followers did not come. 
British aesthetics lost in the nineteenth century what unity of approach 
there was in the eighteenth: while some writers elaborated facets of 
the work done before Stewart's efforts at synthesis, others made fresh 
beginnings, and others yet followed in the tracks of Kant and Hegel. 
What Stewart really did was to review the work of the eighteenth 
century, and to draw from the various systems of that age insights 
which could, without prejudice to the truth they contained, be included 
in a fresh system by arrangement in a genetic account, part of the 
general History of the Human Mind. 


THIS RETROSPECT is neither summary nor conclusion: not 
a summary , for the object of this study has been to display the 
logic of the particular systems in the details of their unfolding; not 
a conclusion, for the systems have been treated as entities, not as 
data for the induction of generalizations. Rather, in this chapter I 
review the aesthetic speculation of eighteenth-century Britain in a 
different mode of analysis. The method I have employed to examine 
the structure of individual systems has necessarily subordinated the 
continuum of concepts, distinctions, and methods of argument which 
persist through the period and which constitute a distinctive tradition 
in aesthetic thought. In this final chapter, it is my purpose to indi- 
cate briefly some at least of these general characteristics of the age, 
and to point out such shifts and tendencies as can be observed within 
that continuum. In no sense, then, is the chapter a distillation of this 
book: it has a different purpose, isolates a different aspect of the sub- 
ject, and employs a different method. The reader who opens the book 
at this point to discover its nature is remanded to the Introduction. 

This book is not a history: the selection of data, the organization 
of materials, and the purpose are not determined by historical prin- 
ciples. If a history, a literal history, of the aesthetic thought of the 
eighteenth century were attempted, its purpose must be to educe from 
the facts a summary proposition, or set of summary propositions, 
which would distill the essence of a narrative, a narrative of changes 
in subject, in principle, in method, and in purpose within the discus- 
sion of aesthetics. The materials would be organized to display the 
parts of those changes their stages or their aspects and the data 
selected would be those most indicative of the progression studied, or 
which were causes of that progression. Yet a system of thought, if 
considered as a logical entity, is an indissoluble crystal, fixed, out of 


304 Retrospect 

time and change. It is only the minds of the authors and students of 
those systems their tastes, associationai patterns, predominant pas- 
sions, habits of inquiry, convictions and conjectures which can 
change. A literal intellectual history, then, is really a history of the 
choices choices of subject, of principle, of method made by the au- 
thors of systems, and of the causes of those choices ; it is an examina- 
tion of systems taken not as logical entities but as psychological 
products. My concern, however, has been not with the history either 
of speculation or of taste in eighteenth-century Britain, but with 
those sets and systems of ideas which were then crystallized, to ex- 
amine their facets, to compare their lusters, and to note the various 
refractions of the same light as it is transmitted through them. 

For though reality may be one, the reflections of it in thought are 
many 5 we see only the image of reality through the prism of our 
own thought, an image which depends more directly on the nature 
of that prism of concepts and distinctions and patterns of inference 
through which we look than upon the object of our view. It is not 
more in our power after examining twenty systems of aesthetics than 
before to answer the naive and natural question, "What, then, is 
beauty after all?" What beauty is in itself, outside all system of 
thought, is indeterminable 5 we see only the image of it through the 
terms in which we describe it, the categories to which we refer it, the 
inferences by which we interpret it. The purpose which leads us to 
the objects of our contemplation, the presuppositions which have 
equipped us with a vocabulary and prepared us to distinguish some 
aspects of the object and to pass over others, our habits of reason- 
ing these circumstances make up that prism or lens through which 
we view reality 5 what our lens brings into focus, we see. Different 
lenses are of use for different purposes, to be sure, and we can grind 
our lens to fit the application; but dispense with it, we can not. 

The problem in giving an account of a variety of systems of 
thought is to establish a set of terms and distinctions sufficiently com- 
prehensive that the concepts and arguments of the systems discussed 
can be compared without prejudice in the terms of the analyst. Where 
the systems compared have many and major features in common 
as with these British systems of the eighteenth century this task is 
of course simpler. R. S. Crane has observed that the neo-classical tra- 
dition in literary criticism was not a body of doctrine 5 it was "a large 
but historically distinguishable aggregate of commonplace distinc- 
tions, of a highly flexible and ambiguous kind, out of which many 
variant critical systems and doctrines could be constructed 33 1 dis- 

Retrospect 305 

tinctions such as general and particular nature, instruction and pleas- 
ure, uniformity and variety, sublime and pathetic, and the like. A 
critic within this tradition might employ such of these distinctions 
as were useful for solution of the problems to which he addressed 
himself, giving the various concepts the interpretation and emphasis 
appropriate to the structure of his thought. The tradition which we 
are here examining is confined to a more narrowly defined subject 
the beautiful, sublime, and picturesque than the miscellaneous crit- 
ical tradition which Crane describes, and the discussions form a more 
closely integrated tradition, yet here too there is great variance of 
doctrine within a common manner. 

The common features of that manner, then. The aestheticians of 
this period all found their subject to be psychological: the central 
problem for them was not some aspect of the cosmos or of particular 
substances, nor was it found among the characteristics of human ac- 
tivity or of the modes of symbolic representation j one and all, they 
found their problem to be the specification and discrimination of cer- 
tain kinds of feelings, the determination of the mental powers and 
susceptibilities which yielded those feelings, and of the impressions 
and ideas which excited them. For this reason, "taste" is their funda- 
mental concern. Numerous inquiries were devoted to the faculty 
itself j and when this faculty was found to be derivative, consequent 
on special modes of action and interaction of other faculties, such in- 
quiry could be complex enough. Even when the faculty of taste was 
not itself the major subject, it was still fundamental to every inquiry. 
Addison had declared that the arts were "to deduce their Laws and 
Rules from the general Sense and Taste of Mankind, and not from 
the Principles of those Arts themselves" $ 2 and though his "Pleas- 
ures of the Imagination" papers were not devoted to analyzing the 
operation of taste and imagination (for he considered the efficient 
causes inexplicable), his attention was merely shifted to those quali- 
ties, the beautiful, great, and uncommon, which were sensed and 
judged by those faculties. Hutcheson's "internal sense," likewise, is 
a kind of taste $ and his overarching purpose in the "Inquiry concern- 
ing Beauty" was to establish the existence of such a discriminating 
sense as propadeutic to his examination of morals in terms of similar 
senses. Gerard's Essay on Taste is only the most elaborate and analyt- 
ical of a class of works common enough in this period, works having 
as their chief subject analysis of the faculty itself. Hume contributes 
his neat essay, "On the Standard of Taste." The treatises of Burke, 
Lord Kames, and Blair, those of Reid, Alison, and Knight open with 

306 Retrospect 

accounts, some of them elaborate, of taste and associated faculties as 
a natural preliminary to examination of its objects. Stewart and 
Reynolds are exempted, one by his dialectical, the other by his philo- 
logical, method from beginning with taste 5 yet one devotes a dis- 
course, the other an essay to it subsequently. Price and Repton, too, 
disclose their views, though the fragmentary nature of Repton's 
works prevents a connected account, and Price takes the views of 
Burke for granted, merely introducing additions and alterations at 

Granted, then, that though Gerard alone of the writers here 
studied devotes the greater part of his treatise to this as his central 
theme, all the writers of the century begin with presuppositions 
about, and most with explicit discourses on, taste. The psychology 
of taste which all these writers employed was genetic rather than 
a priori: their analysis of mental phenomena was essentially histori- 
cal, depending always upon determination of original impressions and 
the reduction of more complex ideas and feelings to combinations of 
these primary materials. An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas 
of Beauty and Virtue, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of 
Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful: such titles are testimony. 
And when Payne Knight entitled his work An Analytical Inquiry 
into the Principles of Taste , the implication was the same: this analy- 
sis is the breaking down of the complicated phenomena to simpler 
elements and principles of combination. It is this trait of the 
eighteenth-century British systems, I take it, which is so often called 
"empirical." Continental rationalisms, and those British systems of 
the next century which were modeled on the German, also find their 
principles in psychology. But they are not genetic or historical j they 
appeal instead to a priori principles and categories of thought. It is 
the habit of the eighteenth-century British philosophers to analyze 
those principles and categories, to find explicable what the rational- 
ists take as primary givensj and this analysis, these experiential ex- 
planations, are a major feature of what is called empiricism. Such 
empiricism is, to be sure, a very different thing in the writings of a 
Hume or Alison from what it is in a Reid or Kamesj but even those 
Scots who took issue with the systematic reductions of Hume, who 
asserted a host of primary and original sensibilities and powers, still 
used their greater number of principles as Hume used his more sim- 
ple and elegant postulates used them, that is, as simple elements 
into which the parts of more complex phenomena could be resolved, 

Retrospect 307 

and from the effects of which the effects of those more complex phe- 
nomena could be calculated. 

The notion of an unanalysable gestdt would be a fiction to these 
writers: the whole is resolvable into and explicable by its elementary 
parts and the relations connecting them. Alison's theory is the type 
of this mode of philosophizing in aesthetics, both in the simplicity of 
its principles and in the intricacy of its analyses. Reynolds and 
Shaftesbury, too is exceptional to this generalization, for his dialec- 
tical way of thinking requires neither such a set of elementary notions 
nor such analysis of complexes 5 the analogical principle of generality 
and particularity applies in one fashion or another to every branch 
of his subject. Yet most of Reynolds' dicta lend themselves readily 
to statement in the more conventional mode; Reynolds, too, is psy- 
chologically oriented, and only gives the faculty psychology of his 
age an unusual dialectical twist. 

That taste should be the fundamental concept in the aesthetics of 
the eighteenth century is a consequence of the philosophizing of criti- 
cism. One of the tendencies Crane has noted in the evolution of neo- 
classical literary criticism is "an important shift of emphasis in the 
critical writing of the mid-eighteenth century a shift that exalted 
the philosopher (in the current sense of an inquirer into the opera- 
tions of the mind) over the artist or the mere critic as the expert best 
qualified to determine the rules of art and that served, hence, to 
bring about, within criticism, a sharper separation between criticism 
itself, considered as a codification of past artistic experience, and the 
'demands of nature,' on which its precepts and judgments, if they are 
to be valid, must ultimately rest." 3 The subject of the present book 
has automatically selected for comment those writers of whom this 
new method was most characteristic: for to extract and refine the sub- 
lime and beautiful wherever they are imbedded in nature or in art 
requires some "tincture of philosophy" in those who would mine 
such ore. The rules and conventions of literary criticism might enable 
many a criticaster to pronounce on particular works with no more 
painful consequence than triteness, and even that might be redeemed 
by novelty of subject \ but in the more abstract and philosophical 
examination of the beautiful, to be trite is to be worthless only the 
logic of system is of value here. In aesthetics, accordingly, some de- 
gree of philosophic system was present from the first j the new char- 
acter noted by Crane in the literary criticism of mid-century began in 
the "philosophical criticism" with Hutcheson. After Hutcheson's In- 

308 Retrospect 

qairy > no writer could pretend to importance as an aesthetician with- 
out credentials as a philosopher, or at any rate without a native bent 
for analysis and systematization. 

Not only, then, was this mode of aesthetics founded on psychol- 
ogy, but upon an empirical, genetic, and usually associationist psy- 
chology: philosophic principles were sought in human nature, philo- 
sophic method was found in a mental atomism of elements and laws 
of combination. Such an orientation directs attention away from the 
technical aspects of artistic construction and towards the universal 
properties of natural or artificial objects which affect the perceiving 
mind. It is the perceiving mind, moreover, not the mind as creative, 
from which principles are drawn. Any psychology accounts of course 
for both perception and creation, taste and genius; but there may still 
be a difference of priority and emphasis. It would be plausible to 
argue that one difference between neo-classical literary criticism and 
that of the Romantic period is that in neo-classical criticism the prin- 
ciples of examination and evaluation are drawn ultimately from the 
nature of the audience, in Romantic criticism from the powers of the 
artist. It is true equally of the aesthetics of the eighteenth century 
as of its criticism that principles are derived from the mind behold- 
ing beauty or sublimity, the mind in which these characters subsisted 
as feelings. The artist's powers, as represented in his works, are con- 
sidered as among the sources of aesthetic pleasure, and, like the tech- 
nical problems of artistic construction, are treated subordinately to 
the emotions of taste. Gerard, to be sure, authored a lengthy and 
closely reasoned Essay on Genius, a work which, like Alison's Essays 
on Taste, works out in detail a mental atomism; but this essay has 
little to the purpose on the beautiful or the sublime. And so with the 
other studies of genius in the period; except for generalizations on 
the connection of original genius, the sublime, and primitive society 
where human nature shoots wild and free, or on the correlation of 
powers of imagination with a vague Longinian sublimity, there is 
little attempt to bring such studies into relation with the beautiful, 
sublime, picturesque. 

Indeed, the chief discussion of the artist's work in this tradition 
(setting aside Reynolds' Discourses, and even these tend to resolve 
genius into taste) is in the controversy on the picturesque. But al- 
though Gilpin might write essays on sketching landscape, his central 
concern is the cultivation of the perceiving taste through the knowl- 
edge, and practice, of art; and his picturesque traveler, though he 
sets out on his rambles to find scenes of art from the hand of nature, 

Retrospect 39 

returns preferring nature unimproved to the tinsel efforts of art. 
Repton, as a practicing artist concerned to justify his art and himself 
as a professor of it, uses his status only to authorize his analyses of 
taste. Price and Knight, again, have to do with genius or art only 
to the extent that they wish, partly by study of the works of art, to 
form a taste which will both guide artists and gratify amateurs. 

The beautiful, sublime, and picturesque being feelings raised up 
in the mind from impressions and associated ideas, it was natural 
that the mind as perceiving rather than creating should have been 
the focus of discussion. At the same time, another circumstance in the 
nature of the subject militated against extensive consideration of art 
itself. Beauty, sublimity, and picturesqueness are found in nature as 
well as in art. A transcendental aesthetician, acknowledging this fact, 
might see in it only an excellent reason for beginning with, and 
largely confining himself to, art: for the whole includes the part, 
and to determine the beauty of art necessarily determines also that 
simpler and less complete beauty of nature. But this reasoning is 
plausible only if method is not analytic and genetic: for if we are to 
resolve the beauty of the complex into the beauties of its components 
and their relations, we will not be tempted to start with the whole. 
We will begin instead with the elementary and original the ele- 
ments being original not only in a logical but also in a chronological 
sense. What is it in colors which fascinates the child? What is the 
taste of men uncorrupted by artifical society the primitives of an 
heroic age, the untutored but feeling rustic, the country gentleman 
remote from the fashions of London, or the sophisticated connoisseur 
whose very sophistication enables him to allow for the effects of cus- 
tom, education, and vogue? What is the etymology of "picturesque"? 
To what objects was the epithet "beautiful" first applied? Questions 
such as these come naturally to the mind which habitually thinks in 
this vein. Since nature is prior to art both in the history of our ex- 
perience and in the order of creation, and since nature is the simpler, 
we begin with nature or, when we do employ art works as data, we 
are likely to ignore or minimize in them those characteristics distinc- 
tively artifidal. In nature, then, and increasingly in natural scenery 
in the gilded colors of sunsets, the tangled intricacies of wooded 
glens, the formless might of stormy oceans we find our problems 
and data. When these data have yielded to our analyses, when we 
have in hand our principles of unity in variety, of the association of 
moral traits with line and color, or whatever they may be then, 
and only then, may we approach the complicated and derivative 

310 Retrospect 

products of art. From them we derive additional principles: we dis- 
cern the influence of design and of fitness (or, if we have seen design 
and fitness in the works of nature, we see them here in a new rela- 
tionship) 5 we uncover the effects of imitation, and we one by one 
account for the differentiae of art from nature. 

It remains a constant characteristic of these aestheticians Reynolds 
excepted that their analyses apply to natural objects first, or to ar- 
tificial objects not distinguished from natural, and only by secondary 
elaboration to art works as differentiated from natural things. There 
is yet another common characteristic consequent on their taking as 
fundament human nature: that nature, being common to all men, or 
at any rate having common potentialities, implies that there is a nor- 
mal taste. To exhibit the standard of taste is an object at which all 
these writers aim. Crane has noted that in neo-classical literary criti- 
cism there was a shift in emphasis between the age of Dryden and 
that of Johnson, that the standard was at first rested chiefly on rules 
induced from the works sanctioned by universal consensus, that as 
criticism became more philosophical the standard came to be grounded 
more on theories of human nature. 4 The aestheticians we are here 
studying put the standard from the first on the basis of human na- 
ture 5 though some still laid stress on the argument from consensus 
as well (Blair, for instance, or Reynolds, whose principle of general- 
ity naturally accords with that argument), others skeptically eschew 
it. Gerard and Knight are as aware as any modern relativist made 
skeptical by excess of knowledge, that there is no consensus except 
within a cultural tradition, that even taken over many ages the judg- 
ment of Peking and Tokyo does not coincide with that of Athens and 
London. Indeed, so long as taste is considered merely as a species of 
sensation it does not admit of a standard 3 not only do cultures vary, 
but each man's constitution and experience determine his peculiar 
likings and aversions, and these are for him preferable to any other's. 

Yet each of our writers owed allegiance to the standard, or to a 
standard ; and many Burke, Gerard, Hume, Lord Kames, Reynolds, 
Knight, Stewart devised explicit arguments to demonstrate a right- 
ness in taste. Each might justify the standard by his own peculiar 
principles Hume by shifting the argument from the impressions of 
sensibility to the idea of critical competence, Kames by appealing to 
original senses which testify to the universality and perfection of hu- 
man nature, Reynolds by using his contrary of the one and the many, 
Burke by examining the common basis of human faculties in the ex- 

Retrospect 311 

ternal senses. But their works were all (in the language of Hogarth's 
subtitle) "Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas of 
Taste." For it is possible to examine the causes of our preferences and 
aversions, to determine which are unavoidable, which accidental 5 
which universal to all men, which common to our culture, our era, 
or our class, which peculiar to ourselves. The effect on us of a com- 
plex whole can be analyzed, reduced to the operation of simple 
causes. Our response to these simple elements may be a matter of 
feeling, and the common feelings of mankind may for these be a 
standard 5 but the proper response to the complex whole becomes a 
matter of computation after such analysis. Taste as judgment is re- 
ferred to principles and is conscious of grounds; it is (as Blair put it) 
"a sort of compound power, in which the light of the understanding 
always mingles, more or less, with the feelings of sentiment." 5 All 
the treatises of the century are implicitly determinations of the stand- 
ard: if (for instance) the sublime be what Burke or Kames or Alison 
avers, and produced by the causes assigned, and we feel it not then 
we feel amiss. The analytic method of this tradition is the method 
far excellence not merely of showing that there is a standard, but of 
determining what that standard is. The dialectic method of Shaftes- 
bury and Reynolds pronounces with equal force that there is a true 
Taste, a true Beauty, but the showing forth of that taste and that 
beauty depends less on cold precision of analysis, more on the culti- 
vation and eloquence of the dialectician. 

So far, I have been concerned with traits common to all, or almost 
all, systems of the century. Was there, then, no change, no progress? 
Certainly there is no simple and straightforward development, no 
progress from shadowy intuition to the blaze of full illumination. 
Neither the characteristic subject matter, the philosophic principles, 
the prevailing method, nor even the doctrines changed in any way 
lending itself to ready generalization. Intellectual history, like bio- 
logical, is a record of haphazard mutation and opportunistic develop- 
ment. In just this random way the century had opened with a triad 
of aesthetic characters: Addison's uncommon, great, and beautiful. 
Novelty, which is not co-ordinate with the great and the beautiful, re- 
mained in the discussion for a time: Hutcheson mentions it, Akenside 
adopts it in the first edition of his Pleasures of Imagination, Gerard 
allows it to stand as one of the internal senses. But Hume and 
Hogarth ignored it, and Burke struck it out, one would think for 
once and all, as a co-ordinate character j but there is no system in the 

3 1 2 Retrospect 

history of systems, and Reid in 1 785 1 again introduces novelty 
as an organizing topic, though very properly rejecting its claims to 
independent status. 

The division of this book into two parts implies a more important 
shift in subject matter: beautiful and sublime become beautiful, sub- 
lime, and picturesque. Yet note: Alison, even in 1811, devotes 
scarcely a paragraph to the picturesque, nor is picturesqueness a major 
topic for Stewart. We can say truly, only that the picturesque is a 
topic introduced by Gilpm, and which was with some later writers a 
major focus of interest. Whether a writer after Gilpin finds the pic- 
turesque a topic of engrossing importance and co-ordinate with beauty 
and sublimity (like Price), or though important not co-ordinate (like 
Knight), or not important (like Alison) these variations are 
functions of the systems, and the systems do not fall into a chrono- 
logical pattern. The analyst can note that it was the predominance of 
Burke's special view of beauty which led to the distinction of the 
picturesque by Gilpin, and that the inadequacies of Gilpin's analysis 
opened the way to fresh explorations by Price and Knight: but these 
are the vagaries of historical accident, or at any rate the effects of 
extra-philosophical causes, not the inevitable rush of intellectual or- 

Another shift accompanies the evolution of the picturesque, per- 
haps partly causes it. Discussion of scenery and gardening runs 
through the century Addison is eloquent on these topics. But as the 
picturesque came into favor as a taste and as a topic, the discussion of 
landscape and of landscape gardening came to occupy a far larger, 
often an overwhelmingly predominant, place in the discussion. The 
works of the end of the century abound alike with detached analysis 
of the forms, colors, and textures of scenery, with practical rules for 
arranging Nature to suit man's convenience or for disarranging her 
to suit his wilder fancy, and with poetical rhapsodies on the delights, 
aesthetic, moral, or religious, which Nature affords. 

The philosophic method employed throughout this tradition of 
discussion of the beautiful, sublime, and picturesque was, as I have 
suggested, analytic and genetic 5 6 yet some writers within the tradi- 
tion performed but superficial analyses, others pursued more search- 
ing inquiries j and various authors resolved the gross phenomena 
into different elemental principles. A sketch of the varieties of causal 
explanation adduced has been included in my Introduction j but a 
recapitulation in different terms may not be useless here. Shaftesbury 
and Reynolds, it should be noted, stand pretty much outside the tra- 

Retrospect 313 

dition methodologically, for though they, like the more literal and 
differential writers, grounded their systems on psychological prin- 
ciples, their method of inquiry was dialectical and organic, and their 
Beauty one, not a set of related beauties. Considering, however, the 
other writers 

Addison distinguished the three characters, great, uncommon, and 
beautiful, and noted some of the leading components of these charac- 
ters that, for instance, there is beauty of color, of proportion, of ar- 
rangement. Yet there is little further analysis of these components; 
other obvious physical varieties both of sublimity and beauty are 
omitted 3 and the complicated interconnections between the physical 
and mental worlds are quite ignored, even though Addison had avail- 
able a rudimentary associational theory. 

Hutcheson's far more philosophical theory pursued the analytic 
approach much further. His purpose, the demonstration of an in- 
ternal sense of beauty, led him to adopt a single analytical device 
the notion of uniformity in variety with which to reduce all forms 
of beauty, including that beauty of mind which Addison had left out 
of account, to a single formula. But though physical, moral, and in- 
tellectual beauties are all treated by Hutcheson, his system (in which 
association plays a limited role, and often one of interference with 
the perception of beauty) does not lend itself to penetrating investi- 
gation of their commingling and reciprocal influence; nor does it en- 
courage exploration of the sublime alongside that of beauty. 

In the philosophy of Hume, an associationism is employed to ana- 
lyze most of the phenomena of human nature to their ultimate con- 
stituents; but Hume's aesthetic is sketchy. Rather disappointingly, 
he does not find much connection between physical and moral beauty, 
has little to say on those beauties immediately pleasing, makes no ef- 
fort to separate design and fitness from utility; these and other neg- 
ligences are, of course, the consequence of Hume's always mention- 
ing beauty incidentally to some other object of analysis beauty it- 
self was never the focus of his attention. Disappointing, too, is the 
fragment of a theory of sublimity which Hume invented, suggestive, 
like the essays on taste and tragedy, of the subtle analysis which his 
powerful psychology could have yielded had it been turned upon 
such subjects. 

The method of Hume was developed by Gerard, and more rigor- 
ously and elaborately by Alison; but before Gerard published, 
Hogarth's theory was brought forward, employing a method very 
different from Hume's but equally characteristic of this tradition. 

314 Retrospect 

Hogarth resolves beauty into a half-dozen elements fitness, vari- 
et y ? & c . all which, however, are reduced to traits of lines: line be- 
comes the element into which all manner of beauty is analyzed. Like 
Hutcheson, Hogarth does not develop a distinct aesthetic of the 
sublime, for this his linear analysis would not readily allow; rather, 
he reckons greatness only an excellence supervening to beauty. And 
for Hogarth, as for all analytic writers, moral and intellectual beauty 
is different from physical 5 though some dispositions of lines can sig- 
nify moral traits, they are not beautiful by reason of this significa- 

In the theory of Gerard, eclectic though it is, Hume's method is 
that largely pursued j the analysis is carried out in terms of ideas, im- 
pressions, and operations of imagination. Though Gerard (like most 
eighteenth-century writers) uses the term "association" to designate 
the less close, even the capricious or disruptive, linkages among ideas 
and impressions, his system is, in a wider sense of the term, associa- 
tional; and its breadth of scope, flexibility of analysis, and subtlety 
of argument are partly attributable to Gerard's use of this powerful 
analytical tool. As in Hume, the connection of physical and moral 
beauty consists in the dependence of both taste and virtue on opera- 
tions of imagination, in the similarity of the pleasures from these 
two kinds of excellence, and in the reciprocal influence of character 
and taste. Such connections of resemblance and of cause and effect 
are the marks of a system which essentially differentiates ethics from 
aesthetics. All of the analytic systems make such differentiation, for 
even in Hutcheson, in Reid, and in Alison the beauty of virtue is 
distinct from the virtue. 

The system of Burke, more radically than most of the theories of 
this school, treats beauty and sublimity in terms of constituent ele- 
mental qualities, each producing its own part of the total effect with- 
out interaction: the beauty of an object has so many quanta of the 
beauty of smoothness, and so forth. Burke's logic, designed to sepa- 
rate the components of complex objects, and with a strong bias 
towards the discovery of simple natural causes operating directly 
upon our sensibility, is well adapted to such a system. And although 
Burke makes use of association, his more distinctive analysis is into 
physiological stimuli j since the separate elements of beauty act in- 
dividually upon the nervous system without being blended, as it 
were, in the mind, Burke's atomism comes to lay a good deal more 
stress on the atoms than on the relations among them, which are 
largely reduced to a matter of addition and subtraction. This trait 

Retrospect 315 

of the system produces a certain dogmatic inflexibility and a negli- 
gence of context in assessing the aesthetic effects of the simple prop- 
erties. All of those theories, in fact, which suppose distinct responses 
by external or internal senses to separate aesthetic elements neces- 
sarily share this inflexibility, for the sense is always prepared to re- 
spond to the appropriate stimulus. The physiological apparatus of 
Burke's system, and of Hogarth's too, makes it especially liable to 
this defect. The defect can be minimized by choice of a single prin- 
ciple capable of many kinds of applications as in Hutcheson or by 
development of a large number of senses as in Kames. Nonethe- 
less, the more purely associational analyses have an inherent capacity 
for modulations and contextual adjustments which the systems re- 
posing on a sense or senses lack. 

Burke's postulated physiological mechanism enables him to draw 
the sharpest of separations between beauty and sublimity, and pre- 
cludes him from admitting novelty, the picturesque, or any third 
character into his system. So definite was Burke's division of beauty 
and sublimity that even those later writers who wished to deny any 
absolute contrariety of the two characters Knight, or Stewart, or 
(outside the analytic group) Reynolds still often used the terms as 
if they constituted an exclusive and exhaustive distinction, or em- 
ployed the concepts as organizing principles for their discussions. 

The distinguishing feature of the system of Lord Kames, and 
one which he derived from, or as a member of, that sect of Scottish 
philosophy which arose to combat the reductive analyses of Hume, is 
the assertion of a multitude of original perceptions through separate 
senses provided by Providence for their reception. The consequence 
of this bent is, of course, that aesthetic phenomena are readily broken 
down into a variety of atomic elements, each class perceived through 
a special sense. The components are so varied that analyses of very 
considerable complexity can be worked out, and the results are suffi- 
ciently precise that Kames can build from them a synthetic system 
of criticism, elaborate for the literary arts, less so for gardening and 

Blair's purpose is very like that of Lord Kames: to work out an 
analysis the results of which can be put to use in synthesis of a theory 
of the literary arts. But Blair's interest is more literary and less phil- 
osophical than that of Kames 5 his principles are fewer, his results 
more general, his synthetic theory more detached from the preceding 
analysis. Clearly inferior to Kames in connecting his aesthetic with 
his criticism, and kept by his eagerness to get on with the criticism 

2 1 6 Retrospect 

from penetrating very far in the aesthetic, Blair nonetheless has one 
advantage: he is free of Kames's penchant for finding special senses 
and final causes, and he not only keeps open the investigation of effi- 
cient causes but even makes some effort to resolve the various modes 
of sublimity into one by association of ideas (though allowing beauty 
to be one only through association of like feelings from the different 
modes of it). His deficiency in middle principles of analysis, how- 
ever, his tendency to leap from first principle to particular instance, 
leaves Blair's system poorly verified and somewhat meager. 

With Reid, the sublime and beautiful were brought within the 
framework of a philosophic system, and both the merits and defects 
of Reid's aesthetic follow from that system. Because of Reid's theory 
of direct perception of the outer world, he finds that beauty and sub- 
limity subsist as real and objective excellences in things; and since 
matter itself can not be "excellent" except as connected with mind by 
some relation, beauty and sublimity must ultimately derive from 
mind. But Reid brings forward little evidence to support this posi- 
tion 5 it rests on deduction from the principles of his metaphysics, 
which is in turn established intuitionally. Neither Reid's purpose in 
treating beauty nor his characteristic method of thought lead him to 
undertake detailed or subtle analysis, and his aesthetic system, saving 
only the principle that all beauty is from mind, contains little novelty 
either in doctrine or in demonstration. 

The analytic and genetic method is given its most systematic, its 
most exhaustive, development by Alison. Employing an associational 
psychology, operating wholly in terms of ideas and habits of imagi- 
nation, Alison develops an aesthetic both comprehensive and subtle, 
equally adapted to formulating broad principles and to making deli- 
cate adjustment to particular contexts. Not only does Alison work 
out all the permutations of the elements of his system the compo- 
nent ideas and the modes of their combination but he employs the 
most rigorous inductive method, consciously organizing data and 
contriving experiments to meet the requirements of inductive logic 
Hume, Gerard, and Alison had, of these writers, the most complete 
grasp of the kind of logic appropriate to an analytic system, recogniz- 
ing that neither deduction from principles of human nature (whether 
these be indemonstrable or established inductively) nor induction 
from the raw data of taste is alone adequate for proof in aesthetics, 
wherein plurality of causes and intermixture of effects abound. Both 
deductive and inductive inference must be used, and their consilience 
alone constitutes proof. But since the powers and sensibilities of hu- 

Retrospect 317 

man nature which enter into aesthetic response are several, and their 
operations more than ordinarily subtle, the deductive process can not 
be pursued safely without some view of the law towards which dem- 
onstration is to be directed 5 and such view is afforded by empirical 
generalization from the data of taste. Here is the use of consensus: 
to suggest empirical laws which can serve as hypotheses towards which 
the ratiocinative part of the process can be oriented. The ratiocination 
is the principal part of the proof, and that part from which the bulk 
of the doctrine will be evolved. Gerard lays perhaps too much empha- 
sis on successively ascending inductions rising to more and more gen- 
eral laws, and tends to see the deduction as only verificative of results 
already arrived at inductively 3 and yet he does not select his data (in 
the Essay on Taste at any rate) to meet express conditions for such 
induction. Alison's concern is to establish the most general laws of 
taste, those from which the more particular rules of judgment and 
criticism can be deduced 5 and such first principles must be proved, if 
they are proved at all, inductively. It is in the perfection of inductive 
techniques for establishing these most general laws that Alison is 
distinguished beyond any other writer of this tradition, beyond even 
Hume, from whom much of the technique may have been borrowed. 

It might be argued that one line of development within this tra- 
dition is in this very matter: the perfecting of inductive technique 
and the co-ordination of inductive and deductive procedures in the 
process of proof. But there is no consistent evolution. Hume, well 
before mid-century, had in hand such a Iogic5 Gerard and Alison 
advance beyond him in applying it to aesthetic subjects; but con- 
temporary with these men are Gilpin, Repton, and Price, with little 
conception of it or, if it be judged unfair to cite men without pre- 
tensions to philosophy, Blair and Reid will serve as well. Even Payne 
Knight, though he is a systematic writer, has less grasp of inductive 
procedure than Alison. All that can be urged, I think, is that three 
major writers at the end of the century Alison, Knight, and 
Stewart had a more philosophic command of logic as applied to 
aesthetics than did any earlier cluster of writers. This is negligible 
as a generalization, especially if we reflect that Alison, in 1790, had 
advanced beyond the later writers. 

Addison had set in progress the inquiry concerning the sublime 
and beautiful by discriminating the characters without explaining the 
mode of their operation 5 his very abandonment of the quest for effi- 
cient causes opened the question to other writers. In much the same 
way, Gilpin initiated a new phase of the discussion by introducing 

318 Retrospect 

the character of the picturesque without finding any plausible expla- 
nation of its influence upon us. Addison had few predecessors and no 
adequate tools of analysis ; Gilpin, though numerous systems lay 
ready to his hand, yet failed so signally to define his problem with 
accuracy, and performed his inductions with so little care, that his ef- 
fort served chiefly as an incitement to later inquirers infected with 
his taste but disappointed in his analysis of its objects. 

The theory of Price, brought forward shortly after, displays an in- 
teresting shift in the technique of analysis ; for though Price stands 
forth as the champion of Burke, he defends Burke's theory mostly 
in foreign terms. For Burke the essential device used to explain the 
sublime and beautiful was a physiological hypothesis, but though 
Price does affirm allegiance even to this, it is not easy to justify the 
picturesque by the theory of Burke. The real, though but half- 
acknowledged, basis of Price's theory is associational. Burke, too, of 
course, had employed associational psychology 5 but in Price, what 
was subordinate in Burke has become predominant. The shift is real, 
but it is an imperfect indication of a general transformation of aes- 
thetic theory into purely associational terms. Hume had been an as- 
sociationist before Burke 5 Knight, writing after Gerard and Alison, 
after Price had attenuated the physiological part of Burke's theory, 
still re-introduces into the discussion a new physiological hypothesis 
to account for the picturesque. 

The special merit of Price's method is his skilful comparison and 
opposition of the aesthetic characters, of beauty, sublimity, pictur- 
esqueness, and their opposites, through detailed analyses of the ele- 
ments of line, texture, light, and color, and of the composition of 
these elements into distinct characters. But his theory was left ex- 
posed to much misunderstanding because of the confusion in which, 
after all, the psychological mechanisms were left, the wavering be- 
tween a notion of direct action upon the nervous system and an as- 
sociational theory the reaches of which were not fully explored. 
Knight's major work, the Analytical Inquiry) left nothing to con- 
jecture, for it is organized faculty by faculty, the analysis moving by 
stages from simple sensation to refined judgment and complicated 
passion. It is in the clarity with which the beautiful, sublime, and 
picturesque are related to these faculties that Knight's acuteness and 
originality is displayed. The ambiguities of the terms "beautiful 55 
and "picturesque" are resolved with unusual elegance through 
Knight's theory of transitive meanings, which permits him to assign 

Retrospect 319 

the different meanings to the objects and operations of the different 

Repton's aesthetic is more applied than theoretic ; his general prin- 
ciples, repeatedly though not always consistently enumerated, are 
never systematically evolved either from empirical induction or 
from a theory of human nature. Taken as topics of argument, how- 
ever, they allow Repton to draw up rules for the practice of his art, 
though the rules do not follow so inevitably from the principles as to 
prevent Repton's taste from undergoing considerable change in the 
course of his career. But Repton's aesthetic is too much an ad hoc 
justification of his style in gardening and architecture to dwell upon 
his method. 

Stewart, however, introduces a novelty in method. Still more than 
the analyses of other writers of this tradition, his is historical and 
genetic. Alison had been content to trace each of the various modes 
and forms of beauty separately to its mental rootj Knight to rest 
each upon an appropriate faculty and to treat the faculties in a se- 
quence corresponding to the order of their development; and so 
with other writers each traced the kinds of beauty individually to 
their origins. Stewart, however, and Stewart alone, takes the progress 
of the mind to be in principle like a chain, and he follows it link by 
link. The analytic device by which he traces the chain is the theory 
of transitive meanings which he adopted from Knight 5 the progress 
he studies is a progress in the wider and more various applications 
of terms. Stewart's view that inductive method in mental philosophy 
may concern itself with the laws describing the connections of mat- 
ter and mind, but not with the manner of that union, allows him 
freedom from the rigidities imposed by physiological hypotheses or 
the postulation of internal senses j but his own conception of linear 
and stepwise development along a thread of transitive meanings im- 
poses its own restrictions. 

My partial review of the writers of this school does not disclose 
strongly marked tendencies or striking improvements 5 rather, it 
presents, within the limits of a broad common method, a scattered 
variety of particular systems. The different purposes of the authors 
partly account for this variety whether the purpose is to complete 
a philosophical system (as with Stewart) or to prepare a prolegom- 
enon to some other branch of philosophy (as with Hutcheson), 
whether to treat the nature and conditions of an art (as with Reyn- 
olds) or to justify a particular style in an art (as in Repton), 

320 Retrospect 

whether to find the roots of the principles of taste (as with Alison) 
or to form a new taste (as with Gilpin). The philosophic allegiance 
of the authors is a factor too whether they are dialecticians (like 
Shaftesbury and Reynolds) , thorough analysts (like Hume and Ali- 
son), or intuitionists (like Kames and Reid). Each system, again, 
reflects the state and momentum of current discussion: a writer may 
introduce a new problem this Addison didj or may add a new 
dimension to discussion already in progress which Gilpin didj may 
incorporate previous efforts into a more comprehensive theory 
as Burke did Hogarth's, or Price Burke's; or may demolish false 
views which had gained currency as did Knight. And doubtless 
each system reflects the tastes of its author and of its age j Hogarth's 
theory might be used to justify one set of preferences, Price's another. 
But after all these causes, philosophical and extra-philosophical, are 
allowed for, there is still, as it appears to me, an element of surprise 
and originality 5 the different habits of thought arise from causes too 
subtle to be categorized. There is perhaps an analogy with muta- 
tions in the biological world: causes presumably exist, but all except 
the grossest escape us. There is little pattern, even in retrospect ; 
and no prediction. 





1. See Ronald S. Crane, "Interpretation of Texts and the History of Ideas," 
College English, II (May, 1941), 755-65. See also Crane's "History Versus 
Criticism in the University Study of Literature," English Journal (College Edi- 
tion), XXIV (October, 1935), 645-67, for a statement of the nature of a literal 
history of literature. 

2. [Joseph Addison], The Spectator ', No. 29 (April 3, 1711), ed. G. Gregory 
Smith (London: Dent, 1897), I> IO 9 

3. Archibald Alison, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste (4th 
ed.; Edinburgh, 1815), I, xxviixxviii; the quotation was added in the 
second edition (1811), just a century from the time Addison wrote. 

4. In every writer treated there is the concession of an organic pleasure in 
harmony and in light or color; Alison alone denies that these organic pleasures 
are a part of the aesthetic response. 

5. I take Greenfield to be the author of the anonymous Essays on the Sources 
of the Pleasures Received from Literary Compositions (London, 1809), which 
is more commonly ascribed to Edward Mangin. 

Chapter i 

1. [Joseph Addison], The Spectator, No. 409 (June 19, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 

2. Ibid., p. 49. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid., p. 51. 

5. Ibid., No. 411 (June 21, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 56. 

6. Ibid., No. 417 (June 28, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 78. 

7. Ibid., No. 411 (June 21, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 56. 

8. Ibid., p. 57. There are two possibilities altogether, not three (as Addison's 
grammar might suggest): ideas of memory include those of things absent; ideas 
of things fictitious involve powers of abstraction and combination. 

9. See Clarence D. Thorpe, "Addison's Theory of the Imagination as Ter- 
ceptive Response,' " Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and 
Letters, XXI (1935; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1936), 512; and 


324 Notes to Pages 7(5 /p 

Martin Kallich, "The Association of Ideas and Critical Theoiy Hobbes, Locke, 
and Addison," ELH, XII (December, 1945)3 3O9- 

10. [Addison], Spectator, No. 416 (June 27, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 73. The 
italics are mine. 

11. Ibid., No 411 (June 21, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 58. Thorpe concludes, 
after finding various components of Addison's psychology in Hobbes, Locke, and 
Descartes, that it was Descartes who "furnished most clearly the conception of 
the imagination as an intermediary between sense and understanding" ("Addi- 
son's Theory of the Imagination as 'Perceptive Response,' " Papers of the Michi- 
gan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters, XXI [1935], 529-) But this is a 
commonplace in philosophy since the Greeks, we need locate no single source. 

12. [Mark Akenside], The Pleasures of Imagination (London, 1744)5 Book I, 
11. 139-46. In the second edition (1772), written after Burke's A Philosophical 
Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Aken- 
side adopts (Book I, 11. 180-89) Burke's more logical twofold division. 

13. Joseph Warton, The Adventurer, No. 80 (August II, 1753). 

14. Daniel Webb, An Inquiry into the Beauties of Painting^ and into the 
Merits of the Most Celebrated Painters, Ancient and Modem (Dublin, 1764), 
pp. 35-36. (The first edition of Webb's book appeared in 1760.) 

15. Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, in The Works 
of Thomas Reid . . . , ed. Sir William Hamilton (8th ed.; Edinburgh Mac- 
lachlan and Stewart, 1880), I, 493. See infra, pp. 151-52, for discussion of Reid's 
view on the triad in question. 

1 6. Samuel H. Monk, The Sublime- A Study in Critical Theories in XVIII- 
Century England (New York Modern Language Association, 1935), pp. 10-5 6 
(on Longiman sublimity) and 56-59 (on Addison). 

17. The eighteen papers on Paradise Lost are in the Spectator, every sixth 
paper beginning with No. 267. 

18. [Addison], Spectator, No. 315 (March I, 1712), ed. cit., IV, 257. 

19. Ibid., p. 255. 

20. Ibid., No. 412 (June 23, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 59. 

21. Theodore McGinnes Moore, "The Background of Edmund Burke's 
Theory of the Sublime (1660-1759)," (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell 
University, I933)>P- 136. 

22. [Addison], Spectator, No. 412 (June 23, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 59. 

23. DeSubhmitate 35. 

24. See Ernest Tuveson, "Space, Deity, and the 'Natural Sublime,' " MLQ, 
XII (March, 1951), 20-38. 

25. [Addison], Spectator, No. 412 (June 23, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 60. 

26. Thus our delight in rivers, fountains, and the like is explained by referring 
it to the perpetual shifting of the scene (ibid., pp. 60-61). 

27. Ibid., p. 6l. 

28. Ibid., No. 369 (May 3, 1712), ed. cit, V, 198 

29. See Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our 
Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, i. 10, in The Works of the Right Honourable 
Edmund Burke (London: Oxford, 1906), I, 94-95. Compare Richard Payne 
Knight, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste (3d ed.; London, 
1806), i. 5. 27, and ii. 2. 57, pp. 86-88, and 185-86. 

Notes to Pages 7924 325 

30. [Addison], Spectator, No. 412 (June 23, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 62. 

31. Ibid., No. 413 (June 24, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 63. 

32. lb*d. 

33. Victor Hamm is confused by this overlapping, arguing that Addison illogi- 
cally treats artifacts under secondary pleasures, though they are present objects, 
and that in general, Nature and the plastic arts should be handled under primary 
pleasures, recollections and poetry under secondary, or that (from another point of 
view) Nature ought to be primary and all art secondary, see his "Addison and the 
Pleasures of the Imagination," MLN, LII (November, 1937), 498-500. 

34. [Addison], Spectator, No. 414 (June 25, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 66. 

35. Ibid , No. 477 (September 6, 1712), ed. cit., VII, 14. 

36. Ibid., p. 17. 

37. Ibid , No. 415 (June 26, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 71. 

38. F. Gregory Smith points out that Addison's passage is an almost verbatim 
transcript from John Evelyn's translation of A Parallel of the- Antient Architecture 
with the Modern, Written in French by Roland Freartj Sieur de Chambray . . . 
(London, 1664), pp. 10-n. See Spectator, No. 415 (June 26, 1712), ed. cit., 
VI, 7172 for the passage (wherein Addison concedes a debt to Freart), and VI, 
291 for the note. 

39. Ibid., p. 71. 

40. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, ii. 9, in Works > I, 125, and (for the physio- 
logical explanation) iv. 1113, * n Works, I, 184-88. 

41. [Addison], Spectator, No. 416 (June 27, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 75. 

42. Ibid., No. 418 (June 30, 1712), ed. cit, VI, 84. 

43. Ibid., p. 8 1. 

44. Ibid. Addison remarks that "it would not be very difficult to cast under 
their proper Heads those contrary Objects [to the great, the beautiful, the 
novel], which are apt to fill it [the fancy] with Distaste and Terrour; for the 
Imagination is as liable to Pain as Pleasure" (ibid., No. 421 [July 3, 1712], ed. 
cit., VI, 92), but he leaves this problem almost untouched. Are these contrary 
objects disagreeable apart from expectation, sympathy, and association? Addison's 
instances all disturb the passions via the imagination rather than pain the imagina- 
tion as such. 

45. Ibid., No. 418 (June 30, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 81. 

46. That this account is not complete is clear from the point made by Hume 
that we are the more affected and delighted in proportion as we are absorbed by 
the play and forget that it is an imitation. 

47. [Addison], Spectator, No. 412 (June 23, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 62. 

48. Ibid., No. 416 (June 27, 1712), ed. cit., VI, 77. 

49. Addison does not put forward the Cartesian account as one to which he 
necessarily subscribes; the passage presents hypothetically what "a Cartesian" 
would say. Addison's reiterated denials that the nature of the soul can be known 
seem, on the other hand, conclusive. 

50. Clarence D. Thorpe, who has written more at length on Addison's 
aesthetics than any other modern scholar, sums up Addison's achievements in 
similar terms, see "Addison's Contribution to Criticism," The Seventeenth 
Century: Studies in the History of English Thought and Literature from Bacon 
to Pope, by 'Richard Foster Jones and Others Writing in His Honor (Stanford, 

326 Notes to Pages 24-29 

Cal. Stanford University Press, 1951), p. 324. Thorpe's concern with evolution- 
ary development rather than logical structure leads him to view Addison's essay as 
"one of the great critical documents of all time," an estimate few will share. 

51. Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, iii (4th ed., Lon- 
don, 1790), I, 55-56- 

Chapter 2 

1. Full title: An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue ; 
In Two Treatises. In Which the Principles of the Late Earl of Shaftsbury Are 
Ex-plain* d and Defended, against the Author of the "Fable of the Bees" and the 
Ideas of Moral Good and Evil Are- Established, According to the Sentiments of 
the Antlent Moralists. With an Attempt to Introduce a Mathematical Calculation in 
Subjects of Morality (London, 1725). Editions followed in 1726, 1729, 1738 
(the last in Hutcheson's lifetime), 1753, I77 2 - 

2. London, 1728; another edition appeared at Dublin in 1728, later editions 
coming in 1730, 1742, 1751, 1756, 1769* 1772. Hutcheson's later works, 
including the posthumous A System of Moral Philosophy . . . (Glasgow and 
London, 1755), I shall not consider in the present account. 

3. William Robert Scott, Francis Hutcheson (Cambridge Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1900), p. 287. 

4. Among the more useful recent studies is William Curtis Swabey's "Benev- 
olence and Virtue," Philosophical Review, LII (September, 1943)3 45 2-67. 
Swabey works in some qualifications apparently modifying Hutcheson's views, but 
these modifications are really present in Hutcheson in other forms. 

5. Hutcheson, Inquiry, ii. I. I, p. 109. My references will be to the first 
edition, but I shall indicate treatise numbers (according to the system given in the 
text) and section numbers to facilitate reference to other editions. 

6. Ibid., Preface, p. vi. 

7. Ibid., p. viii. 

8. Ibid., i. I, ed. cit., pp. 6-7. 

9. Ibid., i. 4, ed. cit., p. 35. R. L. Brett ("The Aesthetic Sense and Taste in 
the Literary Criticism of the Early Eighteenth Century," RES, XX [July, 
1944], 199-213) works with a contrary of judgment and fancy, reason and taste, 
and finds accordingly that eighteenth-century critics tended to divide beauty into 
two species one reasonable, one sensible. He sees the general and specific beauties 
of Spectator No 412 in this light (thereby identifying reason with sex), and finds 
Hutcheson's relative beauty rational, since resemblance involves reason. But not 
so; resemblance must always in the final analysis be perceived immediately. 

10. Hutcheson, Inquiry, i. 2, ed. cit., pp. 1516. 

11. Ibid., i. 6, ed. cit., p. 75. 

12. Scott, Francis Hutcheson, pp. 188 and 217 (in which last passage Scott 
tries to identify variety with novelty). 

13. See Birkhoff, Aesthetic Measure (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University 
Press, 1933). 

14. Hutcheson, Inquiry, i. 4, ed. cit., p. 39. 

15. Alfred Owen Aldridge ("A French Critic of Hutcheson's Aesthetics," 
MP } XLV [February, 1948], 184) declares that this whole section "has no real 

Notes to Pages 2933 3 2 7 

place in a treatise on aesthetics"; Scott, on the other hand, argues that "beauty, 
understood as regularity or uniformity, has always with Hutcheson a precise refer- 
ence to an end, conceived by some intelligent 'designer' " (Francis Hutcheson, p. 

1 6. Hutcheson, Inquiry, i. 6, ed. cit., p. 76. 

17. Ibid., i. 8, ed. cit., pp. 9397. There is a circularity in this argument: 
the sense is implanted to fit man for the world, and the world created to match the 
sense. All that is shown is self-consistency; the question eluded is, why Ms self- 
consistent system instead of some other" 1 

1 8. See Hutcheson's statement in almost these words at the conclusion of the 
Introduction to the "Inquiry concerning Virtue." 

19. Hutcheson, Essay, in. i. I, ed. cit., pp. 5-6. In the Inquiry, ii. 5. 2, 3, 
ed. cit., pp. 197-201, honor and gratitude appear to involve distinct senses, but in 
any event both are reflections of our own goodness in the feelings of others, one 
involving personal obligation, the other detached. 

20. See Inquiry, ii. 5. 7, ed. cit., pp. 20915 for the clue which might serve 
to reduce the sense of dignity under the moral sense the nobler faculties, abilities, 
and pleasures are less selfish or are presumably applied for public weal. 

21. The nomenclature of the senses is that of the "Essay on the Nature and 
Conduct of the Passions" (1728), but the doctrine is all contained in the "Inquiry 
concerning the Original of our Ideas of Virtue or Moral Good" (1725), even 
though the earlier work is largely devoted to the moral sense. It is unnecessary and 
false to read these two works as successive stages in a march towards, or away from, 

22. Hutcheson, Essay, Preface, ed. cit., pp. xvi xvii. 

23. Ibid., iii. 3. 10, ed. cit., p. 165. 

24. The formula is developed in Inquiry, ii. 3. ii, ed. cit., pp. 168-72. In 
the first edition there was some ambiguity about "I" whether it stood for self-love 
or personal gain, the second edition clarified the matter by defining I = S X A, 
wherein "I" is the moment of personal good, "S" is self-love, and "A" abilities. 

25. For the analysis of sympathy, see David Hume, A Treatise of Human 
Nature, eds. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose, ii. I. ii (new ed., London* Long- 
mans, 1882), II, 11114. P arts " and ii 1 of Book III of the Treatise are con- 
cerned with reduction of the moral sense to more original principles; for re- 
duction of the public sense, see Treatise, iii. 2. I, ed. cit., II, 25556, where 
Hume flatly denies any love of mankind merely as such; and for the sense of 
honor see Treatise, iii. I. II, ed. cit., II, 11017, a discussion which introduces 
the most elaborate account of sympathy in the Treatise. See also on this question 
the letters of 17 September 1739 and 10 January 174.3, both to Hutcheson, in 
The Letters of David Hume, ed. J. Y. T. Greig (Oxford- Clarendon Press, 1932), 
I> 3 3-3 4 and 47~48. 

26. Hutcheson, Inquiry, ii. 6. 3, ed. cit., p. 229. 

27. Ibid., ii. 6. 7, ed. cit., pp. 240-41. Number and measure exhibit absolute 
beauty (i. 4), metaphor and similitude relative beauty (tbid.). Prosopopeia is 
the figure eminent for moral beauty (ibid., ii. 6. 7, ed. cit., p. 242) . 

28. Hutcheson, Essay, iii. 3. 3, ed. cit., p. 69. This sympathetic notion of 
virtue enters Hutcheson's thought more systematically than it does Lord Kames's; 
in section 3 of the "Essay on the Passions," Hutcheson is drawing out the sources 

328 Notes to Pages 34-38 

of our passions, and finds six passions arising from each of a number of senses. 
The sympathetic emotion of virtue gives rise to a desire of that virtue, if the 
imitation desired is successful, self-approving joy results, if not, remoise. Three 
corresponding feelings result from the reaction to vice. 

29. Hutcheson, Inquiry, n. 5. 8, ed. cit., pp. 217-18. On tragedy, see also 
Essay, iii. 3. 5 for discussion of the moral state and change of fortune of the pro- 
tagonist. Hutcheson rather mars his analysis by adducing admiration of providence 
as one of the emotions of tragedy, pity is felt only if suffering is disproportionate to 
transgression and if disproportionate, why admire providence? 

30. Hutcheson, Inquiry, ii. 2. 8. 

31. Ibid.) i. 6, ed. cit., p. 78. 

32. Clarence DeWitt Thorpe, "Addison and Hutcheson on the Imagination," 
ELH, II (November, 1935), 233. 

33. The essay is included in De Villette's Oeuvres melees (Dublin, 1750), 
I draw my information about it from Alfred Owen Aldndge's article, "A French 
Critic of Hutcheson's Aesthetics," MP, XLV (February, 1948), 169-84. 

34. De Villette, Oeuvres melees, p. 158, as quoted by Aldndge, "A French 
Critic of Hutcheson's Aesthetics," MP, XLV, 178. 

35. Aldndge states that "in considering merely the general outlines of Hutche- 
son's and De Villette's systems, we do not find fundamental differences. . . . 
De Villette does less to show us that Hutcheson's theory is wrong than that his 
essay is superficial and incomplete" ("A French Critic of Hutcheson's Aesthetics," 
MP, XLV, 183-84). It appears to me, however, that the difference is more 
fundamental, that similar doctrines are set upon different foundations. 

Chapter 3 

1. See Monk, The Sublime, passim, Gordon McKenzie, Critical Responsive- 
ness: A Study of the Psychological Current in Later Eighteenth-Century Criticism 
("University of California Publications in English," XX [1949] 5 Berkeley: Uni- 
versity of California Press, 1949), passim, Teddy Brunius, David Hume on Criti- 
cism ("Ftgura, Studies Edited by the Institute of Art History, University of 
Uppsala," No. 2 [Stockholm- Almqvist and Wiksell, 1952]), p. 1275 et aL 

2. "Of the Standard of Taste" and "Of Tragedy" appealed, together with 
"The Natural History of Religion" and "Of the Passions," in Four Dissertations 
(London, 1757). My references are to the version in Essays Moral, Political, and 
Literary, eds. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose (London Longmans, 1875). 

Vols. I and II of the Treatise were published at London, 1739; Vol. Ill, 
London, 1740. My page references are to the edition of T. H. Green and 
T. H. Grose (new ed., London: Longmans, 1882). 

3. I shall not attempt in this brief chapter to comment on the immense body 
of secondary materials on Hume. Brunius discusses much scholarship on Hume's 
critical and aesthetic position in David Hume on Criticism, and himself enters into 
a lengthy account from which, however, the present analysis often differs rather 

4. Hume, Treatise, Introduction, ed. cit., I, 307. Logic deals with ideas, 
morals, politics, and criticism with impressions passions, habits, moral feelings, 
and aesthetic emotions. 

Notes to Pages 38-4$ 329 

5. Ibid., i. I. I, ed. cit., I, 314. On the following pages Hume admits one 
trifling exception to this principle the possibility of making interpolations in a 
series without specific experience. 

6. Ibtd.) 3. I. 3, ed. cit., I, 318. 

7 Hid,) 11. i. I, ed. cit., II, 76. This "vulgar and specious division" is em- 
ployed by Hume only to divide his subject, it must be noted, however, that 
the principle of the distinction is similar to that of the distinction between im- 
pressions and ideas. 

8. Ibid., ii. i. 8, ed. cit., II, 96. 

9. Ibid , ii. i. 5, ed. cit., II, 85. 

10. Ibid., 11. I. 8, ed. cit., II, 96. 

11. Ibid., pp. 95-96. 

12. Ibtd., iii. 3. i, ed. cit., II, 347. 
13 I bid., p. 336. 

14.. Ibid., ii. 2. 5, ed. cit., II, 151. 

15. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, i (LaSalle, 111.: 
Open Court, 1946), p. 5. 

1 6. Monk, The Sublime, p. 64. 

17. James McCosh, The Scottish Philosophy . . . (New York. Scribner, 
1 890), p. 149. 

1 8. Hume, Enquiry Concerning Morals, v, ed. cit., p. 59. 

19. Monk, The Sublime, p. 98. 

20. Ibid., p. 74. 

21. Hume, Treatise, ii. 3. 7, 8. 

22. Ibid.) ii. 3. 7, ed. cit., II, 207. 

23. Ibid.y ii. 3. 8, ed. cit, II, 20910. 

24. Ibid.) pp. 210-11. 

25. Hume notes elsewhere that weak ideas are painful to the mind; hence we 
seek to have our notions buttressed by the consensus of others, &c. 

26. Hume of course refers tacitly to the etymology of "sublime" as well as to 
its literal English signification of elevation. In contexts not involving literal or 
figurative elevation, Hume speaks of "grandeur" rather than of "sublimity." 

27. See Dugald Stewart, Philosophical Essays, Part II, Essay II, chap, ii, in 
The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart, Esq. . . ., ed. Sir William Hamilton 
(2d ed., Edinburgh T. & T. Clark, 1877), V, 445-47, note EE. 

28. Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste," Essays, I, 266. 

29. Ibid. 

30. Ibid. 

31. Ibid., p. 268. 

32. Ibid.) pp. 268 69. 

33. For Hume there are seven philosophical relations which may obtain be- 
tween ideas. Four depend only on the nature of the ideas, and can be determined 
by comparison- resemblance (same quality), degree of quality (partly the same), 
contrariety (different quality), degree of quantity, three depend on the mode 
of existence of the ideas, and can be determined only by experience: identity 
(same idea recurring), time and space (ideas occurring contiguously), causation 
(ideas with an apparent necessary connection). See Treatise, i. I. 5, ed. cit., I, 

330 Notes to Pages 4552 

34. Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste," Essays, I, 269. 

35. Ibid., p. 270. 

36. Ibid. 

37. Ibid., pp. 271-72. 

38. Ibid., p. 272. 

39. 7J*/., p. 273. 

40. Ibid., pp. 273-74. 

41. /&V., p. 275. 

42. Ibid., p. 276. 

43. Ibid., p. 277. 

44. 73^. 

45. 73*V., p. 279. 

46. /^V., p. 280. 

47. 7&V., p. 281. 

48. Francis Hutcheson, p. 124. 

49. "Reason and Genius," PQ, XXIII (January, 1944), 53. Stuart Gerry 
Brown ("Observations on Hume's Theory of Taste," ES, XX [October, 1938], 
19398), attempts to make out an internal contradiction between subjective and 
objective, romantic and classic, and completely fails to grasp Hume's argument. 
Brunius (David Hume on Criticism, pp. 74-87) gives a clear account of the essay 
but does not remark its logical relation to Hume's basic distinctions. 

50. Hume, "Of Tragedy," Essays, I, 258. 

5 1 . For detailed analysis of the argument of "Of Tragedy" in terms of Hume's 
system of logic developed in the Treatise, see my article, "The Logic of Hume's 
Essay c Of Tragedy,' " The Philosophical Quarterly, VI (January, 1956), 43-52. 

52. Abbe Jean Baptiste Du Bos, in" Reflexions critiques sur la foesie et sur la 
peinture (Paris, 1719). 

53. Hume, "Of Tragedy," Essays, I, 259. 

54. Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, in Reflexions sur la foetique (Paris, 

55. Hume, Treatise, i. 3. 9, ed. cit., I, 414. 

56. See Baxter Hathaway, "The Lucretian 'Return upon Ourselves' in Eight- 
eenth-Century Theories of Tragedy," PMLA, LXII (September, 1947), 672-89. 

57. See Hume, Treatise, iii. 3. 2 for the opposition of sympathy and compari- 
son, and Treatise, 11. 2. 7, 8 for discussion of sympathy and comparison in 
compassion, malice, and envy. 

58. The Letters of David Hume, ed. J. Y. T. Greig (Oxford. Clarendon 
Press, 1932), I, 313. Smith replied in later editions of The Theory of Moral 
Sentiments (i. 3. i) by distinguishing between the emotion communicated 
sympathetically and the emotion arising from perception of the coincidence of 
original and communicated passion, the latter only being in every case agreeable. 
This subtlety does not resolve the issue. 

59. Hume, "Of Tragedy," Essays, I, 261. 

60. Hume, Treatise, ii. 2. 8, ed. cit., II, 162. 

61. Ibid., ii. 3. 4, ed. cit., II, 198. 

62. Ibid., ii. 3. 9. There is also a passing reference to conversion in Treatise, 
ii. 3. 6, ed. cit., II, 203. 

63. Hume, "Of Tragedy," Essays, I, 262. 

Notes to Pages 52-57 331 

64. See Earl R. Wasserman, "The Pleasures of Tragedy," ELH, XIV (Decem- 
ber, 1947), 283-307, for some account of objections to Hume's theory from the 
school of sympathy; Wasserman appears to agree that Hume's theory postulates an 
intellectual taste. 

65. Hume, Treatise, i. i. 7, ed. cit., I, 330. 

66. A number of eighteenth-century aestheticians touch upon this problem, 
but none of them connect it with the conversion theory. See especially Lessing, 
Laocoon, 24-25, and Stewart, Philosophical Essays, note X, in Works, V, 440-41 
(cited infra, pp. 29192). 

67. Hume, "Of Tragedy," Essays, I, 265. 

Chapter 4 

1. See Joseph Burke, Hogatth and Reynolds: A Contrast in English Art 
Theory (The William Henry Charlton Memorial Lecture, November, 1941, 
London: Oxford, 1943), pp. 4 fF., and Stanley F. Read, "Some Observations 
on William Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty. A Bibliographical Study," HLQ, V 
(April, 1942), 36073. See also Joseph Burke's definitive edition of William 
Hogarth: The Analysts of Beauty, with the Rejected Passages from the Manuscript 
Drafts and Autobiographical Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), pp. xiii fL, 
and Peter Quennell, Hogarth's Progress (New York: Viking Press, Inc., 1955). 

2. Sandby's prints are described in F. G. Stephens and E. Hawkins, Catalogue 
of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Division I, Vol. Ill, Pt. 2, 1877 
(years 1753 and 1754). Several are reproduced in Burke's edition of the Analysis. 

3. See Stanley E. Read, A Bibliography of Hogarth Books and Studies, jpoo 
1040, with an Introductory Essay on Trends in Hogarth Criticism, 17641940 
(Chicago: De Paul University, 1941), for references. A few of the general his- 
tories of aesthetics comment on the Analysis; Bosanquet (History of Aesthetic, 
pp. 206-9) criticizes Hogarth without having read him (cf. ibid., p. 496). 

4. Marjorie Bowen (pseudonym of G. M. V. Long), William Hogarth, the 
Cockney's Mirror (2d ed.; New York: D. Appleton Century Co., 1937), p. 315. 
Even those moderns who admire the Analysis seem to do so because it can be 
construed to support some modern crotchet, thus, R. H. Wilenski finds Hogarth 
important because his three-dimensional line of grace "brings him at once in touch 
with the aesthetic attitude of our own time, the attitude behind Cezanne's land- 
scapes and the Cubist movement . . ." (English Painting [London: Faber, 
1933]. P. 275). 

5. William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, Written with a View of Fixing 
the Fluctuating Ideas of Taste (London, 1753), Preface, p. xii. (To facilitate 
reference to the editions of 1772 and after, I give chapter as well as page refer- 

6. Ibid., Introduction, p. [i]. 

7. Ibid., p. 6 

8. Ibid., p. 4. 

9. Ibid., pp. 78. 

10. Ibid., p. 8. 

11. Ibid., p. 9. In Joseph Burke's rather different interpretation of the tech- 
nical memory (Analysis [1955 ed.], pp. xxxvii xli), the shell-view made no 

332 Notes to Pages 57-61 

part of the system, which comprised only linear abstractions, essentially two- 

12. Ibid. (1753 ed.), pp. 11-12. 

13. J. Burke, Hogarth and Reynolds, p. 8, and "A Classical Aspect of Ho- 
garth's Theory of Art," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, VI 
(1943), I5I-53- 

14. In Memorabilia ni, Xenophon explains how Socrates "helped those who 
were eager to win distinction by making them qualify themselves for the honours 
they coveted" (iii. I. i), my quotation is from the debate with Aristippus (iii. 
8. 7); the visit with Cleiton is in iii. 10. 8. See also the discussion with Pistias 
the armorer, wherein Socrates argues that good proportion is relative to use (in. 
10. 9-15), and the identification of useful and beautiful in iv. 6. 9. 

15. Hogarth, Analysis, h, ed. cit, pp. 16-17. 

1 6. Ibid., in, ed. cit., pp. 18-19. 

17. Ibid., x, ed. cit., p. 63. 

1 8. Ibid., iv, ed. cit., p. 21. The pyramid exhibits most variety m fewest parts 
among straight-lined figures; the title-page ornament of the Analysis shows the 
serpentine line enclosed within a pyramid erected on a rectangular base. On the 
same principle, the oval is preferred to the circle, the ovoid to the oval, contrary 
to the preference of Hutcheson for the circle. 

19. Ibid., v, ed. cit., p. 24. 

20. Ibid., p. 25. 

21. Ibid., p. 26. 

22. Ibid., xii, ed. cit., p. 95. 

23. Ibid., xiv, ed. cit., pp. 1 14-15. 

24. Wilson O. Clough considers that reference of beauty to physiological 
causes contributed to breakdown of the classical system of objective reason and 
"left open a way for subjective and individualistic claims" ("Reason and Genius," 
PQ y XXIII [January, 1944], 36). Such an inference contrasts nicely with Ho- 
garth's own title declaration Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating 
Ideas of Taste. Presupposed by Hogarth is the likeness, not the difference, of 
men's senses, and that to refer beauty to such causes was to remove it from the 
realm of subjective judgment. 

25. Hogarth, Analysis, vi, ed. cit., p. 29. 

26. Ibid., xi, ed. cit., pp. 87-88. 

27. Ibid., vi, ed. cit., p. 31. 

28. Hogarth's print, "The Country Dance," lends itself neatly to analysis in 
terms of mechanical associations, for instance; cf. Henri Bergson's theory of the 
comic in Le Rire, essai sur la signification du comique (Paris. F. Alcan, 1900). 

29. Hogarth, Analysis, vii, ed. cit., p. 38. 

30. See, for instance, Winckelmann's "Instructions for the Connoisseur," in 
Henry Fusseli's translation of his Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the 
Greeks . . . (ad ed.j London, 1767): "The line which beauty describes is 
elliptical, both uniform and various: 'tis not to be described by a circle, and from 
every point changes its direction. . . . 'Tis not in the power of Algebra to de- 
termine which line, more or less elliptic, forms the divers parts of the system into 
beauty but the ancients knew it . . ." (p. 259). It remains doubtful whether 
this elliptical line Jias a jeverse curve, however, 

Notes to Pages 61-64 333 

31. Burke (ed.), Analysis, p. xlviii. 

32. Hogarth, Analysis (1753 ed.), vhi, p. 40. 

33. Ibid., ix, ed. cit., p. 49. 

34. Hogarth, British Museum Additional MS 27, 991, . 19. The table fol- 
lowing is taken from Egerton MS 3011, L i8b. Both extracts are printed also by 
Burke, the table with slight differences in the transcription. 

35. Hogarth, Analysts, Preface, ed. cit. 5 p. iv. 

36. /^/., xi, ed. cit., p. 68. 

37. Ibid., p. 69. 

38. 73zV., p. 76. 

39. A letter to the Rev. Herbert Mayo, who had suggested an application of 
Hogarth's theory to sound, reads as follows: 

"Leicester Fields 4th Aprill 1761 

An answer to the favour of your letter after so much time past since the receipt 
of it, must seem somewhat unpolite, particularly as the subject of yours is so gen- 
teel a complement to me, the only excuse I can make for the delay, is my en- 
deavouring to add something of my own in confirmation of what you have so 
well advanced on the Rules of Beauty being applicable to sounds, but I found it 
better to drop my own opinion of the matter and send you one of that great 
Master of Harmony, Mr. Handel, who once, as I was told, describing Mrs. 
Woffington the actresses manner of speaking, sometimes in, and sometimes out of 
tune, did it by notes very similar to those you have placed on the lines you have 
so obligingly communicated to me, which I am sure you will think much better au- 
thority than any I can pretend to give you of my own. 

I am Sr. your much 
obliged humble servant 

Win. Hogarth 

I intend as soon as possible to publish a supplement to my Analysis in which 
perhaps I shall make some use of your observation together with what else may 
occur to me on the subject." 

This letter is found as an unsigned Item in The Living Age, CCCXIX (8th series, 
Vol. XXXII, December 22, 1923), 57980. It may be conjectured from Ho- 
garth's reply that Mayo argued partly on the basis of the visual notation repre- 
senting the sound. 

40. There is an apparent inconsistency in Hogarth's organization. At the 
start of Chapter xi he distinguishes the two general ideas of form explained above, 
and subsequently divides the second into two aspects "general measurements" 
(as height to breadth, &c.) which can be described by straight orthogonal lines, 
and "such appearances of dimensions as are too intricately varied to admit of a 
description by lines" (Analysis, xi, ed. cit., p. 74). Accordingly, his discussion of 
both aspects is based on fitness as well as variety, and all is in order. But farther 
on (p. 89) Hogarth reviews his procedure and identifies the first aspect of the 
second "general idea" the measurement of contents by orthogonal lines with 
the first general idea, "on surface," limiting the second and more extensive idea 

334 Notes to Pages 65-70 

of form, arising from fitness for movement, to the nicer proportions. This is, no 
doubt, a careless confusion rather than an inconsistency in thought. 

41. Hogarth, Analysis, xvii, ed. cit., p. 142. 

42. See the letter to Mayo, supra, p. 333. 
43 J* Burke, Hogarth and Reynolds, p, II. 

44. The observations of Holmes and Hubbard are to be found in the Journal 
of the Royal Society of Arts, LXXX, No. 4139 (March 18, I93 2 )> 43 8 ~59- 

Chapter 5 

1. An Essay on Taste, by Alexander Geiard . . . with Three Dissertations 
on the Same Subject by Mr. De Voltaire, Mr. D'Alembert, F. R. S., Mr. De 
Montesquieu, London, 1759. My references are to this edition, except for those 
to Part iv in the 1780 (third) edition. 

Gerard wrote his Essay before Burke published the Sublime and Beautiful m 
April of 1757, publication of Gerard's book in May, 1759, came so shortly after 
the second edition of Burke's (January, 1759) containing the "Introductory 
Essay on Taste," that Gerard very probably had not seen this "Essay" if, indeed, 
he had seen the treatise itself. 

For an account of the circumstances of composition of Gerard's two books, see 
Margaret Lee Wiley, "Gerard and the Scots Societies," in The University of 
Texas Publication* Studies in English, No. 4026 (Austin University of Texas, 
1940), pp. 132-365 and see James McCosh, The Scottish Philosophy (New 
York. Scnbner, 1890), pp. 227-29 and 467-73 for information on Gerard and 
the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. 

2. An Essay on Taste. To Which Is Now Added Part Fourth, Of the Standard 
of Taste with Observations Concerning the Imitative Nature of Poetry. By Alex- 
ander Gerard, D D. Professor of Divinity in Kings College, Aberdeen. The Third 
Edition, Edinburgh and London, 1780. This edition omits the French authors. 
Despite the length and importance of the additions (almost a third of the whole), 
they have been entirely ignored by modern commentators on Gerard. 

3. An Essay on Genius, by Alexander Gerard^ D.D. . . . (London and Edin- 
burgh, 1774), Advertisement, p. iii. 

4. Gerard, Essay on Taste, Introduction, ed. cit., pp. 12. 

5. Ibid., iii. I, ed. cit., pp. 162 63 n. 

6. Ibid., p. 1 60. 

7. Ibid., pp. 164-65. McKenzie (Critical Responsiveness, pp. 13637) sees 
Gerard's principle as an anticipation of the theory of empathy; Gerard, however, 
works wholly with ideas and impressions, and does not introduce the physiological 
responses which are emphasized in the theory of empathy. The systematic context 
is that of Hume, not Lipps. 

8. Gerard, Essay on Taste, iii. I, ed. cit., pp. 16970. Note the resemblance to 
Hume, Treatise, ii. I. n. 

9. Gerard, Essay on Taste, iii. I, ed. cit., p. 172. 

10. Ibid., iii. 6, ed. cit, p. 205. 

11. Ibid., pp. 20 1 2. 

12. The analysis of the faculties is carried out chiefly in the Essay on Genius-, 
for memory, see ii. 9 and iii. 3. 

Notes to Pages 70-75 335 

13. For the philosophical relations, see Essay on Genius, \\. 10, for the natural 
relations, ibid., n. I. Gerard's analysis differs in some particulars from Hume's. 
His philosophical relations are resemblance, contrariety, degree of quality, pro- 
portion in quantity, identity, time-and-place, coexistence, causation, the uni- 
formity of nature 5 he finds identity, universal causation, and the uniformity of 
nature to be inexplicable intuitions, whereas Hume analyzes all of these; and 
Hume would consider coexistence only a modification of causation. Gerard di- 
vides his natural relations into simple not dependent on additional habits of the 
imagination and compounded. The simple principles are resemblance, con- 
trariety (which for Hume is merely a species of resemblance), and vicinity; the 
complex relations are coexistence (involving a notion of substance and identity), 
cause-and-efTect (involving a notion of power and necessary connection), and 
order (which includes conception of design) all which for Hume are causation. 

14. Gerard, Essay on Taste, iii. i, ed. cit,, p. 170; compare with Hume, 
Treatise, iii. 3. 2. 

15. Gerard, Essay on Genius, ii. 3, ed. cit., pp. 147-84. 

1 6. Gerard, Essay on Taste, i. i, ed. cit., pp. 3-11. 

17. Ibid., p. 8. 

1 8. Ibid., i. 2, ed. cit., p. 13. 

19. Ibid., p. 14. In a footnote, Gerard criticizes Longinus for "resolving the 
sensation of sublimity into the last of these principles [self-glorification], without 
investigating the others, of which it is but a consequence . . ."; doubtless he 
would criticize Burke for resolving it entirely into the first. 

20. Gerard acknowledges in a note that "most of the species of sublimity are 
explained, nearly from the principles here assigned" in Baillie's essay (ibid., p. 


21. Hume, Treatise, ii. 3. 8, ed. cit., II, 209. See all of ii. 3. 7, 8. 

22. Gerard, Essay on Taste, i. 2, ed. cit., pp. 17-18. 

23. Ibid., p. 17. 

24. Ibid., p. 1 8. 

25. Ibid., p. 19. 

26. Ibid., p. 23. 

27. Dr. [John] Baillie, An Essay on the Sublime, ed. Samuel Holt Monk 
(Augustan Reprint Society Publication No. 43; Los Angeles, 1953)5 p. 32. 

28. Ibid., p. 31. 

29. Gerard, Essay on Taste, i. 2, ed. cit, p. 19. 

30. Baillie, Essay on the Sublime, p. 33. 

31. Gerard, Essay on Taste, i. 3, ed. cit., p. 31. 

32. Ibid., p. 47. Gerard illustrates the last of these three modes by citing 
the imitation of a beautiful original. But this seems an error, Gerard is pointing 
out that an imitation of something beautiful may itself exhibit beauty (unlike rep- 
resentations of grandeur, which are not grand in themselves), but there is no ques- 
tion in such imitations of necessarily suggesting ideas from other senses. 

33- "So great," says Gerard, "is the power of variety in producing beauty, that 
an ingenious artist, who has lately analyzed it, not altogether without reason, re- 
solves almost the whole of it into that principle. . . . He holds uniformity no 
further necessary, than it is requisite to convey the idea of rest or motion, without 
possibility of falling. But here he goes too far. It were easy to point out instances, 

336 Notes to Pages 75-82 

where uniformity is studied, though it cannot have any degree of this effect and 
he acknowledges that beauty resides only in a composed variety; which necessarily 
implies a mixture of uniformity" (ibid., pp. 34-3 5n). Gerard overlooks that what 
he terms "uniformity" includes also what Hogarth terms "simplicity," and that 
Hogarth concedes the value of regularity in forms merely decorative. 

34. Ibid., p. 47. 

35. Ibid., p. 42. 

36. Ibid., p. 43- 

3 7. Monk, The Sublime, p. 1 1 0. 

38. Ibid. 

39. Gerard, Essay on Taste, i. 4, ed. cit., pp. 49-5 - 

40. I6td,, pp. S4--55- 

41. 7&V. (3d ed.), Appendix, pp. 283-84. 

42. Ibid, (ist ed.), i. 5, p. 64. 

43. Ibid., 3i. 7, ed. cit, p. 148. 

44. Ibid., iL i, ed. cit., p. 89. 

45. Ibid., ii. 2, ed. cit., p. 96. 

46. Ibid., ii. 3, ed. cit., pp. 104-5. 

47. Ibid., i. 7, ed. cit., pp. 77-78. 

48. Mar] one Grene, "Gerard's Essay on Taste? MP, XLI (August, 1943), 


49. Ibid., p. 58. 

50. McKenzie (Critical Responsiveness, pp. 268, 296-97) is also unaware of 
the fourth part of the Essay on Taste. 

51. Gerard, Essay on Taste (3d ed.), iv. I, ed. cit., p. 200. 

52. Ibid., iv. 2, ed. cit., p. 216. 

53. Ibid., iv. 5, ed. cit., p. 251. 

54. See especially the final chapter of Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism 
(and infra, pp. 119-20) and the Introduction to Richard Payne Knight's An 
Analytical Inquiry mto the Principles of Taste (and infra, pp. 25455). 

55. Gerard, Essay on Taste, iii. 3, ed. cit, pp. 182-83. 

56. Ibid., p. i85n. 

57. I bid., p. 184. 

58. John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, Book 
VI, Chaps. 9 and 10 ("Of the Physical, or Concrete Deductive Method" and 
"Of the Inverse Deductive, or Historical Method"). 

59. Gerard, Essay on Taste, iii. 6, ed. cit, pp. 207-8. 

60. The Essay on Genius is, as a whole, not closely enough related to the 
present study to admit of its being treated here. The general plan of the book can 
perhaps be grasped by noting that genius itself is an efficient cause, and that the 
three parts of tie treatise, "Of the Nature of Genius," "Of the General Sources 
of the Varieties of Genius," and "Of the Kinds of Genius," deal with the facul- 
ties involved in genius (material cause), the modifications and compoundings of 
these faculties (formal cause), and the ends which marshal these combinations and 
modifications into distinct species of genius (final cause). 

Notes to Pages 83-86 337 

Chapter 6 

1. Richard Payne Knight, An Analytical Inquiry mto the. Principles of Taste, 
in. i. 59 (3d ed., London, 1806), p. 374. 

2. James BoswelTs Lije of Samuel Johnson, ed. Alexander Napier (London* 
George Bell & Sons, 1884), I, 485. 

3. Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourse viii, The Literary Works of Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, Kt., ed. Edmond Malone (5th ed.; London, 1819), I, 282n. 

4. Hume to Adam Smith, April 12, 1759, in The Letters of David Hume, ed. 
J. Y. T. Greig (Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1932), I, 303. 

5. The satire on Lord Bolmgbroke, A Vindication of Natural Society (London, 
1756) preceded it from the press, Burke appears to have intended publication of 
the Sublime and Beautiful early m 1756, but put it off in order to write and pub- 
lish the Vindication. 

6. Theodore McGinnes Moore, "The Background of Edmund Burke's The- 
ory of the Sublime (1660-1759)" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell Uni- 
versity, 1933), pp. 2-20. 

The differences of the first and second editions of the Sublime and Beautijul 
are related to the reviews of the first edition by Herbert Wichelns, "Burke's Essay 
on the Sublime and Its Reviewers," JEGP, XXI (1922), 645-61. 

7. Burke, Sublime and Beautijul (ist ed., 1757), Preface, pp. vi-vii, quoted 
by Wichelns, "Burke's Essay on the Sublime and Its Reviewers," JEGP, XXI 
(1922), 645. 

8. Burke himself uses the term "efficient cause" loosely, "when I speak of 
cause, and efficient cause, I only mean certain affections of the mind, that cause 
certain changes in the body, or certain powers and properties in bodies, that work 
a change in the mind" (Subhme and Beautijul [text of the second edition], iv. I, 
in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke [London: Oxford, 1906], 
I, 175). He does not distinguish explicitly the object from the principles by which 
the object acts, and accordingly remarks that certain proportions are alleged to be 
"the efficient cause of beauty" (ibid., iii. 4, in Works, I, 144) where in strict 
accuracy he should say "material cause." 

9. Monk (The Sublime, p. 98) sees Burke as an advance towards subjectivism: 
"although he cannot, by the very nature of his reasoning, refer beauty and sublim- 
ity to the perceiving mind alone, as Kant was to do and as Hume had already 
done, he does, perforce, concentrate most of his attention on the effect rather than 
on the qualities of objects." 

10. Burke, Sublime and Beautijul, iii. 2, in Works, I, 141. 

11. McKenzie, Critical Responsiveness, pp. 88-89. 

1 2. Burke, Sublime and Beautijul, Introduction, in Works, I, 66. 

13. Ibid., p. 67. 

14. Ibid., p. 68. 

15. Ibid., p. 78. Gerard (Essay on Taste [3d ed.], iv. 3, ed. cit., pp. 220-24) 
gives a clear precis of Burke's argument, but considers that Burke is trying to ex- 
plain away diversities of sentiment, and that he minimizes the transformations 
imagination effects with the data of sense in presenting images "which the senses 
could not possibly exhibit, and which give pleasure or disgust on totally different 

338 Notes to Pages 87-91 

principles." It is certainly true that Burke's argument is sketchy in dealing with 
imagination and judgment. 

1 6. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, i. i, in Works, I, 84. 

17. Ibid., i. 4, in Works, I, 88. 

1 8. Ibtd., i. 7, in Works, I, 91. 

19. Cf. supra, pp. 74-75 for discussion of Baillie's and Gerard's views on 
this topic, and infra, pp. 272-73 for an account of Richard Payne Knight's cri- 
tique of the terrific sublime. 

20. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, i. 7, in Works, I, 91-92. 

21. Ibtd., i. 17, in Works, I, 102. 

22. /&/., iv. 7, in Works, I, 181. 

23. Hutcheson, it might be remarked, had tried to show that horrid objects 
affect us unpleasantly only through fear for ourselves or compassion for others 
when reason or association makes us apprehend danger, when the fear is removed 
by reasoning or experience, such objects may become pleasing. Hutcheson's analy- 
sis agrees with Burke's in finding agreeable objects which might be but are not 
now fearful, it contrasts with Burke's in that Hutcheson is not concerned with 
differentiating two modes of agreeableness, and considers that the fear, once dis- 
pelled practically, has no longer any influence whatever. (See Inquiry, i. 6, p. 67.) 

24. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, i. 8, in Works, I, 92. 

25. Ibtd., i. 14, in Works, I, 98. 

26. For Hutcheson, see sufra, pp. 3334, for Kames, infra, pp. 1 1516. 

27. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, i. 15, in Works, I, 99. 

28. Knight, Analytical Inquiry, iii. i. 1-13, ed. cit., pp. 318-30 and through- 
out iii. i. 

29. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, i. 17, in Works, I, 102-3. 

30. Ibid., ii. i, in Works, I, 108. 

31. Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language . . . (London, 
1755) gives evidence of the connection of all these feelings with fear. "Astonish- 
ment" is defined as "Amazement 5 confusion of mind from fear or wonder"; 
"amazement" as "Such a confused apprehension as does not leave reason its full 
force; extreme fear; horrour"; "awe" as "Reverential fear"; &c. Johnson is un- 
illuminating on "sublimity" itself. He gives three meanings: (i) "Height of 
place; local elevation", (2) "Height of nature; excellence"; (3) "Loftiness of 
style or sentiment." To the phrase, "the sublime," he assigns only the meaning, 
"The grand or lofty stile," remarking that "The sublime is a Gallicism, but now 
naturalized." There are no changes in any of these definitions in later editions. 

32. See Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, ii. 2, in Works, I, 109, the passage be- 
ginning "Indeed terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, 
the ruling principle of the sublime," and continuing to the end of the section. 
This passage was added in the second edition, but the same etymological point 
was made in the first more briefly (ibid., iv. 7, in Works, I, 181). 

33. Ibid., ii [4], in Works, I, 112 and 114. 

34. Ibid., ii. 6, in Works, I, 121. 

35. Ibid., ii. 5, in Works, I, 1 1 5. 

36. Ibid., iv. 2, in Works, I, 176. 

37. Ibid., iv. 3, in Works, I, 177. 

38. Ibid., iv. 6, in Works, I, 180. 

Notes to Pages 9195 339 

39. Ibid., iv. 7, in Works, I, 181. 

4.0. Knight, Analytical Inquiry, i. 5. 4, 5, ed. cit., pp. 59-60. 

41. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, iv. 24, in Works, \, 201. 

42. See Goldsmith's review. Monthly Review, XVI (May, 1757), 4805 
Burke's reply, beginning "Some who allow darkness to be a cause of the sub- 
lime . . . ," was added to the middle of iv. 1 6. 

43. Cf. infra, pp. 2048. 

44. Burke, Subhme and Beautiful, iii. i, in Works, I, 138. 

45. It is here that Burke lays down the four rules of reasoning cited supra. 
Much of this discussion, including the rules, was added in the second edition; 
Wichelns ("Burke's Essay on the Sublime and Its Reviewers," JEGP, XXI 
[1922], 656-58) suggests that Burke was answering the strictures of Arthur 
Murphy in the Literary Magazine, II, 187, and those of the reviewer in the 
Critical Review, III, 366-67. 

46. This is the very answer which Uvedale Price was later to give to Reynolds' 
Idler papers see "An Introductory Essay on Beauty; with Remarks on the Ideas 
of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Burke, upon That Subject," prefixed to A Dia- 
logue on the Distinct Characters of the Picturesque and the Beautiful . . . , in 
Essays on the Picturesque (London, 1810), III, 229-32. 

47. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, iii. 8, in Works, I, 156-57. Burke illus- 
trates his argument with the instance of a watch: the case, polished and engraved, 
is beautiful; the mechanism is fit. Blair uses the same illustration (borrowed, very 
probably from Burke, like so many points in Blair), but makes both excellences 
into varieties of beauty (Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, v, 
I, in). 

48. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, iii. n, in Works, I, 159. 

49. Ibid., iii. 10, in Works, I, 158. 

50. Ibid., iii. 12, in Works, I, 160. 

51. William Gilpin, Three Essays; On Picturesque Beauty; on Picturesque 
Travel-, and On Sketching Landscape . . . (2d ed.; London, 1794), p. 6n. 

52. Aristotle Eth. NIC. iv. 3. H23 b 6. See also Rhet. i. 5. 1361*1-8 and Poet. 
vii. 1 450^34 51*5. Thomas Twining's comments are in his Aristotle's Treatise 
on Poetry, Translated: with Notes . . . (London, 1789), pp. 26365, note 61. 
Price ("Introductory Essay on Beauty," Essays on the Picturesque, III, 192) may 
possibly be using Twining. 

53. Dugald Stewart, Philosophical Essays (Edinburgh, 1810), ii. I. I. 5, pp. 

54. Knight, Analytical Inquiry, ii. 2. 107-8, ed. cit., pp. 23133; see i. 5. 
4, 1 6 (ed. cit., pp. 59, 68) for discussion of beauty so far as it depends on the 
sense of sight purely. 

55. Burke was followed by Price in this use of "fine"; and he himself fol- 
lowed usage in some measure. Johnson's Dictionary (1755) gives "ii. Applied 
to person, it means beautiful with dignity," and "13. Showy; splendid." Burke's 
"specious" harks back to the Latin sfeciosus, "splendid," "imposing." The closest 
Johnson comes is "i. Showy; pleasing to the view." 

56. Cf . infra, pp. 2 5 7-5 8 . 

57. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, iii. 23, in Works, I, 168. Burke did not 
have the sanction of contemporary usage for this employment of "elegant." John- 

340 Notes to Pages 96-99 

son defines it "l. Pleasing with minuter beauties," and for "Elegance, Elegancy," 
he gives "Beauty of art; rather soothing than striking, beauty without grandeur," 
none of which definitions implies regularity. Johnson's definitions correspond, in- 
cidentally, to the sense Reynolds gives the term "elegant" when he contrasts it 
with the sublime. 

58. It does not appear to me conformable to usage to term warmth "beautiful." 
Softness, though of itself tactile, has visual signs and is appreciated as a visual 
beauty; smoothness and gradual variation are both visual and tactile; but warmth 
has no connection with sight (or hearing) and therefore none with what is usually 
felt to be beautiful, being only a pleasing organic sensation having a vague analogy 
like sweetness of taste with the beautiful. 

59. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, iii. 25, in Works, I, 171. 

60. Ibtd., iv. 19, in Works, I, 195. 

61. Ibid., iv. 24, in Works, I, 202. 

62. Ibid., iii. 27, in Works, I, 172-73; this passage was added in the second 

63. McKenzie, Critical Responsiveness, p. 246. 

64. Howard, "Burke among the Forerunners of Lessing," PMLA, XXII 
(1907), 614. 

65. Burke, Sublime and Beautiful, v. 2, in Works, I, 207. 

66. Ibid., p. 210. 

67. Ibid., v. 5, in Works, I, 214 from a passage added in the second edition. 

68. Hume, Treatise, i. I. 7. 

69. McKenzie, Critical Responsiveness, p. 249. 

70. Howard, "Burke among the Forerunners of Lessing," PMLA, XXII 
(1907), 614. 

71. Donald Cross Bryant, Edmund Burke and His Literary Friends ("Wash- 
ington University Studies New Series; Language and Literature" No. 9 [St. 
Louis, 1939]), p. 234, quoting from Sir James Prior, Life of Edmond M alone 
. . . (London, 1860), p. 154. 

72. Bryant, Burke and His Literary Friends, pp. 9596, based on James Prior, 
The Life of Oliver Goldsmith (2 vols. in one; London, 1837), II, 428, and 
other sources. 

73. Howard, "Burke among the Forerunners of Lessing," PMLA, XXII 
(1907), 610, quoting from G. E. Lessing s samtliche Schriften, eds. K. Lachmann 
and Franz Muncker (3d ed., 22 vols.; Stuttgart and Leipzig: G. J. Gdschen'sche 
Verlagshandlung, 1886-1910), XVII (Leipzig, 1904), 138. 

Chapter 7 

1. The first six editions, those of bibliographical significance, are dated 1762, 
1763, 1765, 1769, 1774, and 1785; there was also an unauthorized Dublin edi- 
tion in 1772. See the (incomplete) list of editions in Helen Whitcomb Randall's 
The Critical Theory of Lord Kames ("Smith College Studies in Modern Lan- 
guages," XXII, Nos. 1-4 [Northampton, Mass.: Smith College, 1944, as of 
1940-41]), 137-39. 

2. Bosanquet, History of Aesthetic, pp. 202-6. 

Notes to Pages 100105 341 

3. [Lord Kames], Essays on the Principles of Morality and 'Natural Religion, 
li. 4 (Edinburgh, 1751), p. 276. Gordon McKenzie finds this position incon- 
sistent with the professedly empirical character of Kames's philosophy, see his 
"Lord Kames and the Mechanist Tradition," University of California Publica- 
tions in English^ XIV (1942; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1943)? 
107-8. I consider, however, that the common sense and intuitive senses of the 
Scottish school are quite consistent with empiricism, I see in the criticism of Kames 
no "mixture of contradictory elements," and my own strictures turn on other 

4. [Kames], Essays, ii. I, ed. cit., p. 227. 

5. Ibid*, ii. 2, and compare Elements of Criticism, ii. i. i (2d ed.; Edin- 
burgh, 1763), I, 66. My references to the Elements are to this second edition 
unless otherwise specified. 

6. Kames, Elements, ii. i. 6 (7 in 4th and later eds.), ed. cit., I, no. For 
"substance" and "body" see definition 4 of the Appendix (III, 428-29) and 
Essays, ii. 3, especially (ed. cit.,) pp. 244 ff. 

7. [Kames], Essays, ii. 3, ed. cit, p. 260. 

8. Kames, Elements (30! ed.), Appendix, definition 14, II, 505-8. 

9. Ibid. (2d ed.), xviii. 2, II, 304-5. 

10. This quotation is found in the fifth and later editions only, in definition 
1 5 of the Appendix to the Elements, 

11. [Kames], Essays, ii. 4, ed. cit., p. 285. 

12. Ibid., ii. 6, ed. cit., p. 307. 

13. I bid., ii. 7, ed. cit., p. 373. 

14. Kames, Elements, Introduction, ed. cit., I, I ff. and Appendix, definition 
13, ed. cit., Ill, 432-33; see also Essays, ii. 3, especially (ed. cit.) p. 243. 

15. Kames, Elements, Introduction, ed. cit., I, 5. 

1 6. Ibid., p. 14. 

17. Ibid., Dedication, ed. cit., I, iv. 

1 8. Ibid., iii, ed. cit., I, 252. 

19. Ibid., Introduction, ed. cit., I, 16. 

20. Ibid., p. 1 8. 

21. Ibid., pp. 17-18. 

22. Randall, Lord Kames, pp. 2327. 

23. Kames, Elements, ii. i. i, ed. cit, I, 52 ff. In interpreting the distinction 
between passion and emotion as a reflection of the difference between a practical 
and an aesthetic attitude towards objects, Monk (The Sublime, p. 113) reads into 
Kames's distinction a difference which is not there; practical attitudes give rise to 
both passions and emotions, and aesthetic contemplation likewise can arouse pas- 
sions as well as emotions. 

24. Kames, Elements, ii. i. 3 (4 in 4th and later eds.), ed. cit, I, 7379. 
Hutcheson had already noted the sympathetic emotion of virtue in the Essay on 
the Passions, iii. 3. 3, ed. cit, p. 69. 

25. Kames, Elements, ii. 2, ed. cit, I, 135. 

26. Ibid., p. 137. Hutcheson (Inquiry into Beauty and Virtue, ii. 2. 8, ed. cit., 
pp. 14043) had made a similar point about virtue; virtue may be either painful 
or pleasant in direct feeling, but all virtue is pleasant ("agreeable," as Kames 

34-2 Notes to Pages 

would say) in retrospective survey. The observation is only incidental for Hutche- 
son, but it serves to illustrate the naturalness of such a distinction in the British 

27. KameSj Elements, n. 3, ed. cit., I, 145* 

28. Compare Kames's confident assertion that "the distinction between pri- 
mary and secondary qualities in matter, seems now fully established" (Elements, 
hi, ed. cit., I, 270) - 3 again, Kames's refutation of Hume's doctrine of impressions 
depends upon taking "impression" in an anatomical sense at which Hume would 
have scoffed. 

29. Ibid., li. 6, ed. cit., I, 227. 

30. Ibid., xi, ed. cit., II, 36-37. 

31. Ibid., viii, ed. cit., I, 379-83. The development of this principle illustrates 
rather amusingly two of Kames's crotchets. There is first the claim of originality, 
that this principle "lies still in obscurity, not having been unfolded by any writer, 
though its effects are extensive" , and then the final cause is pointed out not only 
pointed out, but the rather startling claim is made that "the final cause of this 
principle is an additional proof of its existence." 

32. Ibid., iii, ed. cit., I, 252. 

33. Ibid., pp. 252-53. 

34. Ibid., p. 254. 

35. Ibid., xiv, ed. cit., II, 103. 

36. Ibid., iii, ed. cit., I, 259. 

37. Ibid., ix, ed. cit., I, 422-23. 

38. Ibid., iv, ed. cit., I, 275. 

39. Ibid., pp. 276-77. Note the resemblance of the emotions to their causes. 

40. Ibid., pp. 31415. Hume could have brought this controversy neatly under 
the contrariety of sympathy and comparison. 

41. Ibid., vi, ed. cit., I, 334. 

42. It is true, to be sure, that the picturesque has connections with the ludi- 
crous, as in the genre painting of the Dutch school, and that the sublime may be 
connected with the ludicrous in the mock-heroic. Beauty has never, I think, any 
but an accidental connection with the ludicrous. 

43. This distinction of primary and secondary relations is first made in a foot- 
note added to the third edition. 

44. Kames, Elements, x, ed. cit., II, 8. 

45. Ibid., xi, ed. cit., II, 30. 

46. Ibid. (3d ed.), I, 348. 

47. This explication of the plan of the book corresponds pretty closely with 
that given by Randall (Lord Kames, p. 23, n. 2) . The chief difference is in placing 
the chapter on the external language of passion (xv) ; clearly, this chapter belongs 
with the following chapters on sentiment and passionate language, for all three 
deal with the expression of passion. 

Randall's account of the Elements seems to me good, and especially in the treat- 
ment of organization and procedure. Murray W. Bundy, however, gives her book 
(and Lord Kames's) an excoriating review in "Lord Kames and the Maggots in 
Amber," JEGP, XLV (April, 1946), 199-208, the basis of Bundy's attack is an 
antipathy to British empiricism which prevents him from following Kames's argu- 

Notes to Pages 116-21 343 

ments or grasping his conclusions. Gordon McKenzie also fails to see the force of 
Kames's organization, urging that the theory of emotion is not of much relevance 
to criticism, and that "each chapter is essentially a fresh start from a familiar point 
of view rather than a consequence of the material already presented" (Critical 
Resfonsiveness, p. 143). 

48. Kames, Elements (3d ed.), xv, I, 431. This remark, though added only 
in the third and subsequent editions, merely elaborates the doctrine of the earliest 

49. Ibid., (2d ed.), xvi, II, 153. 

50. Ibtd., xxi, ed. cit., Ill, 235. 

51. Ibtd., p. 237. 

52. Ibid., xxii, ed. cit., Ill, 245n. 

53. Ibid., p. 247. 

54. Ibid., p. 249. 

55. Kames makes an effort to show that Aristotle's pity-and-fear correspond to 
his own notions. Randall, though not quite accepting this preposterous claim, does 
consider that Kames's treatment of tragedy is "remarkably faithful to Aristotle in 
letter and in spirit," and points out that Butcher's interpretation of Aristotle runs 
pretty close to Kames's (Lotd Kames, pp. 5254). But it must be emphasized that 
Kames's discussion of tragedy depends directly from his analysis of the passions, 
faculties, and virtues, Aristotle's treatment is more self-contained and centers 
about the four causes object, manner, and means of imitation, and catharsis. 

56. It was in this chapter on architecture and gardening that Kames inserted 
some notions on ornament supplied by Mrs. Montagu the "maggots in amber," 
as she playfully dubbed the insertions. Murray W. Bundy takes Mrs. Montagu's 
rather conventional remarks stressing the influence of historical and religious as- 
sociations on our notions of beauty in ornaments and the interpretation of orna- 
ments as signs of moral traits or other affecting circumstances, as penetrating "to 
the heart of the aesthetic problem of the century, she has appealed from the 
rational to the imaginative comprehension of beauty." Bundy alleges that Lord 
Kames reduces all beauty to utility, congruity, and propriety, thereby making all 
"beauty, intrinsic as well as relative, essentially a matter of the understanding" 
("Lord Kames and the Maggots in Amber," JEGP, XLV [April, 1946], 203, 
207). Yet Kames's greatest concern was to assert the prerogatives of direct per- 
ception against the overweening claims of ratiocinative analysis 1 Bundy is led to 
describe Mrs. Montagu's sprightly reply to Kames's revision of her remarks as 
ironically devastating criticism, and to insinuate that Kames's eventual acknowl- 
edgement of her contribution in the fifth edition must have been dictated by her 
outraged protests. The reader can judge for himself by reading the exchange of 
letters reproduced by Randall (Lord Kames, pp. 94 ff.). 

57. McKenzie, "Lord Kames and the Mechanist Tradition," University of 
California Publications in English, XIV, 1056. 

58. McKenzie, Critical Responsiveness, pp. 295-96. See also Monk, The 
Sublime, pp. 13233 and 23738; but these opinions are found very widely. 

59. Kames, Elements, xxv, ed. cit., Ill, 4068. 

60. Ibid., p. 426. 

61. Ibid.) pp. 418-19. 

344 Notes to Pages 12228 

Chapter 8 

1. See Robert Morell Schmitz, Hugh Blair (Morningside Heights, N.Y. 
King's Crown Press, 1948) for details of Blair's life and works. 

2. Letter to Thomas Percy, 31 Jan. 1772, cited by Schmitz (Hugh Blair, p. 
66, n. 19) from a MS of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 

3. Schmitz, Hugh Blair, p. 66. 

4. Blair, Lectutes on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, v (4th ed., London and 
Edinburgh, 1790), I, H9~20n. Blair apparently added the footnote references 
when preparing for publication see the Preface, where he speaks of "remember- 
ing" the books he had consulted in preparation of the lectures. 

5. The first edition of the Lectures was published in 1783; the first edition 
of the Dissertation (London, 1763) was followed by a second (1765) containing 
important additions. Schmitz (Hugh Blair, pp. 42-60, 88-90, 127-28) gives 
an account of Blair's part in the publication and criticism of the Ossianic poems, 
he is somewhat inclined to minimize the scholarship supporting the semi-authen- 
ticity of Ossian. 

6. See Schmitz, Hugh Blair,, pp. 14345, and T. E. Jessop, A Bibliography 
of David Hume and the Scottish Philosophy, pp. 1012, for the bibliography. 

7. Blair, Lectures, i, ed. cit., I, 15. 

8. Ibid., p. 4. 

9. Ibid., p. 1 8. 

10. Ibid., ii, ed. cit., p. 20. 

11. Ibid., p. 21. 

12. Ibid., p. 34. 

13. Ibid.,?. 38. 

14. Ibid., p. 39. 

15. Ibid., pp. 3940. 

1 6. Ibid., iii, ed. cit., p. 56. 

17. Ibid.,??. 56-57. 

1 8. Ibid., p. 59. 

19. Ibid., pp. 61-62. 

20. Ibid., p. 65. 

21. Ibid., p. 67. 

22. Blair, A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, 
appended to The Poems of Ossian . . . (London, 1790), II, 425. 

23. Blair, Lectures, iii, ed, cit., I, 6970. 

24. Ibid., p. 70. 

25. Ibid. 

26. Ibid. 

27. Ibid., p. 71. 

28. Ibid., iv, ed. cit., I, p. 74. Richardson uses "sublime" to mean "the most 
excellent of what is excellent, as the excellent is the best of what is good", for 
literature this formula becomes "the greatest and most noble thoughts, images or 
sentiments, conveyed to us in the best chosen words" whether these words be 
plain and pointed or florid and heroic; for painting, the formula is "the greatest 
and most beautiful ideas conveyed to us the most advantageously." See Jonathan 

Notes to Pages 12834 345 

Richardson, An Essay on the Theory of Painting, in The Works of Mr. Jonathan 
Richardson . . . (London, 1773), pp. 124. and 136. This chapter "Of the Sub- 
lime" appeared first in full in the second edition of the Essay, 1725. Much of 
what is generally treated of as the sublime is handled by Richardson under other 
heads, however, see especially his treatment of "Grace and Greatness" (pp. 93- 

29. Blair, Lectures, iv, ed. cit., I, 75. 

30. Ibid., p. 73. 

31. Ibid., pp. 75~76. 

32. Blair, Dissertation, in Poems of Ossian, II, 424. 

33. Blair, Lectures, iv, ed. cit., I, 9394. 

34. Blair, Dissertation, in Poems of Ossian, II, 324. 

35. Ibid., p. 426. It is interesting to note that Johnson does not sanction 
the use of "pathetic" to refer to compassion and tenderness in his Dictionary; 
the only sense admitted for "pathetical, pathetick" is "Affecting the passions 5 
passionate; moving." There is no change in this definition through the successive 
editions, even though Johnson himself used the word to mean "compassionate 
and tender." 

36. Blair, Lectures, iv, ed. cit., I, 76. 

37. Blair, Dissertation, in Poems of Ossian, II, 28384. 

38. Blair, Lectures, v, ed. cit., I, 101. 

39. Ibid., p. 102. 

40. Ibid., p. 104. 

41. Ibid., p. 105. 

42. Ibid., p. 1 08. 

43. Ibid., pp. 108-9. 

44. Ibid., p. no. 

45. Ibid., pp. 113-14- 

46. Ibid., p. 1 1 8. 

Chapter 9 

1. The discourses were delivered to the Royal Academy, of which Reynolds 
was first president, on ceremonial occasions from 1769 to 1790; they were pub- 
lished individually, the first seven were published together in 1778, and the entire 
fifteen were edited by Edmond M alone, together with the other literary works 
of Reynolds, in 1797. 

2. This chapter is adapted from my article, "General and Particular in the 
Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Study in Method," JAAC, XI (March, 
1953), 23147, which may be consulted for somewhat fuller treatment both of 
Reynolds and of the pertinent scholarship. 

3. Roger Fry (ed.) , Discourses Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy 
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kt. (London: Seeley and Co., 1905), pp. 40 and 179. 

4. Michael Macklem, "Reynolds and the Ambiguities of Neo-Classical Criti- 
cism," PQ, XXXI (October, 1952), 383-98. 

5. Eflbert] N. S. Thompson, "The Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds," 
PMLA, XXXII (1917), 365. 

6. Reynolds, The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kt., ed. Edmond 

346 Notes to Pages 135-3$ 

Malone ($th ed.; London, 1819), Discourse xv, II, 217. I shall refer to this 
edition (pagination of all the Malone editions but the first is almost identical) 
as simply Works. 

7. Joseph Burke, Hogarth and Reynolds: A Contrast in English Art Theory 
(The William Henry Charlton Memorial Lecture, November, 19415 London. 
Oxford, 1943), pp. 23-24. 

8. Wilson O. Clough, "Reason and Genius," PQ, XXIII (January, 1944), 
46-50. Reynolds, like Hogarth, Hume, and Burke, is made to contribute to the 
development of subjectivism in taste, in express contradiction to his announced 

9. Fry (ed.), Discourses > p. 44, Bellori's Idea of a Painter (translated in Dry- 
den's preface to his translation of DuFresnoy's Art of Painting [pp. v-xiii of the 
second edition, 1716]) is repeatedly cited in this connection. Frederick Whiley 
Hilles, on the other hand, finds Count Algarotti's Essay on Painting (Englished 
in 1764) to be the original of Reynolds' theory, see The Literary Career of Sir 
Joshua Reynolds (Cambridge University Press, 1936), p. 121. Burke makes the 
same suggestion. In general, art scholars look for Reynolds' sources in Renaissance 
and eighteenth-century art critics, while literary scholars search in Johnson and 
Edmund Burke 5 but almost all agree in tracing the inheritance back to Plato and/or 

10. Louis Bredvold, "The Tendency toward Platonism in Neo-Classical 
Esthetics," ELH, I (September, 1934), 115. 

1 1. Macklem, "Reynolds and the Ambiguities of Neo-Classical Criticism," PQ, 
XXXI (October, 1952), 385-86. 

12. Hoyt Trowbridge, "Platonism and Sir Joshua Reynolds," ES, XXI 
(February, 1939)* I- 

13. The Discourses are neatly analyzed in terms of the problems to which they 
are addressed by Elder Olson in his Introduction to Longinus, "On the Sublime" 
. . . and Sir Joshua Reynolds, "Discourses on Art" . . , (Chicago: Packard, 
1945). I take this analysis for granted here. 

14. The distinctive traits of Aristotelian and Platonic thought, as I here under- 
stand them, are set forth in Richard P. McKeon's "The Philosophic Bases of Art 
and Criticism," MP, XLI (November, 1943), 6587 and (February, 1944)? 
12971. See McKeon's comment on Reynolds, pp. 155-56, n. 3. 

15. Reynolds, Works, Discourse vii, I, 204. Note that this passage from the 
seventh discourse (like the thirteenth discourse) refers taste to human nature. 

1 6. Ibid., Discourse xiii, II, 135-36. Again, rules are "not to be determined 
by narrow principles of nature, separated from . . . [the] effect on the human 
mind" (ibid., Discourse viii, I, 281). 

17. See the second chapter ("Likeness Generalized: Aristotle and Sir Joshua 
Reynolds") of her Retreat from Likeness in the Theory of P anting (2d ed.; New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1949). 

1 8. Reynolds, Works, Discourse vii, I, 224-25. Even on the conventional 
theme of the moral influence of art, Reynolds' statements are cast in characteristic 

"The Art which we profess has beauty for its object; this it is our business 
to discover and to express; the beauty of which we are in quest is general and intel- 
lectual; it is an idea that subsists only in the mind; the sight never beheld it, nor 

Notes to Pages 138-41 347 

Has the hand expressed if it is an idea residing in the breast of the artist, which 
he is always labouring to impart, and which he dies at last without imparting; but 
which he is yet so far able to communicate as to raise the thoughts, and extend 
the views of the spectator; and which, by a succession of art, may be so far diffused, 
that its effects may extend themselves imperceptibly into publick benefits, and 
be among the means of bestowing on whole nations refinement of taste: which, 
if it does not lead directly to purity of manners, obviates at least their greatest 
depravation, by disentangling the mind from appetite, and conducting the thought 
through successive stages of excellence, till that contemplation of universal rectitude 
and harmony which began by Taste, may, as it is exalted and refined, conclude in 
Virtue" (ibid., Discourse ix, II, 7-8). 

19. Ibid., Discourse vii, I, 200. Observe that the three examples correspond 
to the three modes of truth specified. 

20. "The terms beauty, or nature, which are general ideas," Reynolds declares, 
"are but different modes of expressing the same thing . . ." (ibid., p. 204). Or 
again, "there is but one presiding principle, which regulates and gives stability to 
every art. The works, whether of poets, painters, moralists, or historians, which are 
built upon general nature, live forever . . ." (Md., Discourse iv, I, 112). 

21. For a study of the senses in which this term may be used, see Richard P. 
McKeon, "Literary Criticism and the Concepts of Imitation in Antiquity," MP, 
XXXIV (August, 1936), 1-35. 

22. Reynolds, Works, Discourse ii, I, 32. 

23. Ibid., Discourse vi, I, 175. 

24. Ibid., Discourse ii, I, 35. The direct source of the passage appears to 
have been The Painting of the Ancients of Franciscus Junius (see Hilles, Literary 
Career, p. 127). 

25. Reynolds, Works, Discourse vi, I, 18182. 

26. Ibid., Discourse iii, I, 53. 

27. Ibid., p. 52 and Discourse xiii, II, 121. Once again the discourses, both 
early and late, appeal to the mind; there is no shift in orientation. 

28. Ibid., Discourse i, I, 9. 

29. Ibid., Discourse xiii, II, 142. 

30. Idler "No. 82 (November 10, 1759). 

31. Sir Uvedale Price, "An Introductory Essay on Beauty; with Remarks on 
the Ideas of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Burke, upon That Subject," prefixed 
to his A Dialogue on the Distinct Characters of the Picturesque and the Beautiful 
. . . (Hereford, 1801); see infra, pp. 206-7. 

Richard Payne Knight, An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste (3d 
ed.; London, 1806), i. 5. 23. 

Dugald Stewart, Philosophical Essays (Edinburgh, 1810), ii. I. I. 7; and cf. 
infra, pp. 294-95. 

32. See Fry's Introduction to the third discourse (Discourses [ed. Fry], 

PP- 39-47). 

33. On the question of method here mooted, see Paul Goodman, "Neo- 
Classicism, Platonism, and Romanticism," Journal of Philosophy, XXXI, No. 6 
(March 15, 1934), 148-63. 

34. The letter is in Frederick Whiley Hilles, Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds 
(Cambridge University Press, 1929), pp. 90-93. 

348 Notes to Pages 

35. Reynolds, Wotks, Discourse viii, I, 276. 

36. Ibtd.y Discourse iv, I, 92, the numerous similar passages are trivial, since 
Reynolds does not regard this as a major distinction. Johnson's Dictionary (1755) 
supports Reynolds 5 sense of "elegance", "elegant" is defined, "i. Pleasing with 
minuter beauties," and "Elegance, Elegancy" is defined as "Beauty of art, rather 
soothing than striking; beauty without grandeur." 

37. Reynolds, Works, Discourse xv, II, 204-5. 

38. Ibid., Discourse v, I, 124 and ff. 

39. Ibid.) Discourse viii, I, 282n. 

40. Thompson, "The Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds," PMLA, XXXII 
(1917), 358, Donald Cross Bryant, Edmund Burke and His Literary Friends 
("Washington University Studies New Series, Language and Literature" No. 
9; St. Louis, 1939) pp. 53~54. Chapter iii of Bryant treats of Burke's relations 
with Reynolds, Bryant merely follows Thompson on this aesthetic point. 

41. Edmund Burke, "On Taste," Sublime and Beautiful, in Works, I, 675 
Reynolds, Works, Discourse vii, II, 199. 

42. Hilles (Literary Career, chap, vii) gives neither Johnson nor Burke 
much credit for aid in composing the discourses. The revisions with which John- 
son and Malone touched up the first printed editions of the individual discourses 
are analyzed in an exhaustive collation of texts by Lauder Greenway, Alterations 
in the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds (New York. Privately printed, 1936) ; 
Greenway's conclusion is that the revisions concerned only minutiae of style 
Reynolds, in short, wrote his own discourses. 

43. Reynolds, Works, Discourse xi, II, 45. 

44. Ibid., Discourse xv, II, 206-7. 

45. Ibid., Discourse xiii, II, 1 1 1. 

46. Ibid., p. 112. 

47. Ibid., Discourse iii, I, 55. 

48. Ibid., Discourse vi, I, 156. 

49. Ibid., Discourse xi, II, 43. 

50. Ibid., Discourse vi, I, 1 86. 

51. Ibid.,?. 145. 

52. Ibid., Discourse xv, II, 188-89. 

53. Ibid., Discourse vi, I, 172. 

54. Ibid.,?. 155. 

55. Ibid., Discourse viii, I, 264. The arts "in their highest province, are not 
addressed to the gross senses 5 but to the desires of the mind, to that spark of divin- 
ity which we have within, impatient of being circumscribed and pent up by the 
world which is about us" (ibid., Discourse xiii, II, 142-43). It is patent that in 
Reynolds' thought, wish-fulfillment is apprehension of the Ideal ; the distinction 
of wish-fulfilling idealization of the actual from the transcendent Ideal (which 
Macklem stresses in "Reynolds and the Ambiguities of Neo-Classical Criticism," 
PQ, XXXI [October, 1952], 383-98) involves no real opposition. 

56. Reynolds, Works, Discourse vii, I, 201. 

57. Ibid., Discourse ii, I, 26-27. 

5 8. Ibid., Discourse xiii, II, 113-18. 

59. Ibid., Discourse v, I, 128-29. 

60. Reynolds speaks of "whatever partakes of fancy or caprice, or goes under 

Notes to Pages 147-51 349 

the denomination of Picturesque" (ibid. y Discourse x, II, 37), throughout the 
tenth discourse the picturesque serves to set off effects inappropriate to sculpture, 
which above all other media requires a chaste gravity the grand style. I post- 
pone discussion of Reynolds' views on the picturesque, however, until I treat his 
correspondence with Gilpin (infra, pp. 199201). 

61. Reynolds, Works, Discourse xiii, II, 127. 

62. Ibid., Discourse v, I, 132. 

63. The painter "must sometimes deviate from vulgar and strict historical 
truth, in pursuing the grandeur of his design" (ibid., Discourse iv, I, 85). Thus, 
Gothic architecture, "though not so ancient as the Grecian, is more so to our 
imagination, with which the Artist is more concerned than with absolute [i.e., 
historical] truth" (ibid., Discourse xin, II, 138). 

64. Ibid., Discourse i, I, 8. 

Chapter 10 

1. Reid observes of Kames's Elements of Criticism that "in that Appendix, 
most of the words [i.e., philosophical terms] are explained on which I have 
been making observations, and the explication I have given, I think, agrees, for 
the most part, with his" (Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, i. I, in 
The Works of Thomas Reid . . . , ed. Sir William Hamilton [8th ed., Edin- 
burgh Maclachlan and Stewart, 1880], I, 2303). Methodologically, Gerard and 
Alison are, on the whole, closer to Hume. 

2. The early work, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of 
Common Sense (Edinburgh, 1764) does not treat of aesthetic taste or its 
objects. Reid's psychology is completed in the Essays on the Active Powers of 
Man (Edinburgh, 1788), which again does not touch upon taste. 

3. Monk, The Sublime, p. 147. 

4. David O. Robbins, "The Aesthetics of Thomas Reid," JAAC, No. 5 
(Spring, 1942), p. 38. Robbins' point of view is clear in the remark that "in the 
last few decades of the eighteenth century, when English aesthetics had run stale 
after its promising start in Addison and Shaftesbury, Reid stands out by contrast 
and in his own right as an original thinker" (ibid., p. 30). 

5. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. I, in Works, I, 4903. 

6. Ibid. 

7. Ibid., p. 49oa~b. 

8. I bid., p. 49ob. 

9. Reid, An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common 
Sense, vii, in Works, I, 2050-2063, editor's note. Reid does do Locke at least 
the justice to say that his doctrine on secondary qualities "is not so much an error 
in judgment as an abuse of words" (Intellectual Powers, viii. 4, in Works, I, 

10. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. i, in Works, I, 49 ib. 

11. Ibid., p. 492a. 

12. Ibid., i. i, in Works, I, 224b. Reid himself is obliged, however, to 
explain away some of the implications of the language used by all men; and in 
any case, the "just foundation in nature" can certainly not be taken as guarantee- 
ing the validity of a distinction. Even Stewart criticizes Reid for, in assuming 

350 Notes to Pages 151-58 

too unqualifiedly that language is the express image of thought, often laying 
"greater stress on the structure of speech, than ... it can always bear in a 
philosophical argument" (Philosophical Essays, i. 5. i, in Works, V, 154). 

13. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. 2, in Works, I, 493a. 

14. Ibid. 

15. Ibid., viii. 3, p. 4940. 

1 6. IM., p. 4983. 

17. Ibid., p. 495b. 

1 8. 73*V., p. 4983. 

19. Ibid.,?. 497b. 

20. Robbins, "The Aesthetics of Thomas Reid," JAAC, No. 5 (Spring, 1942), 

pp. 37-38. 

21. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. 3, in Works, I, 4963. 

22. Ibid. 

23. /&., p. 4983. 

24. Ibid., viii. 4, in Works, I, 498b. 

25. 7zV., p. 

26. 7&^., p. 

27. Ibid., p. 50ib. 

28. Ibid., p. 502b. 

29. Ibid., viii. 3, in Works, I, 5033. 

30. Letter to Alison of February 3, 1790, in Works, I, 89b. 

31. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. 4, in Works, I, 5O3b. 

32. Ibid., p. 5osb. Reid is not at all points consistent in appreciation of 
the beauty of contrivance. He notes that poisonous animals and plants are dis- 
agreeable to the eye, a generalization which appears to me (despite the authority 
of Linnaeus) false but true or false, it cannot be made consistent with Reid's 
system, for the poisonousness of such animals and plants often exhibits the nicest 
adaptation to the ends of the species. 

33. Stewart, Philosophical Essays, i. 5. 2, in Works, V, 161. 

34. Reid, Intellectual Powers, viii. 4, in Works, I, 507b. Grace is of two sorts, 
one majestical (grand) the other familiar (beautiful). 

Chapter n 

1. Monthly Review, III (Enlarged Series; 1790), 361-73; IV (1791), 
8-19. See also the New Annual Register (1790), p. 203. 

2. Letter to Alison of February 3, 1790, in Hamilton's edition of Reid's 
Works (8th ed.; Edinburgh, 1880), I, 89. This is the letter discussed sufra, 
p. 155- 

3. Stewart, Elements, i. 5. 2. 2, in Works, ed. Hamilton (Edinburgh, 1877), 
II, 321; Philosophical Essays, fluries, in Works, V. 

4. The Letters of Robert Burns, ed. Francis H. Allen (Boston Houghton, 
1927), III, 9-10. William Knight (The Philosophy of the Beautiful, Being 
Outlines of the History of Aesthetics [New York: Scribner, 1891], p. 213) 
detects a "delicate irony" in this letter; but Knight takes little stock in the 
"degenerate teaching" of the associationists, and is perhaps inclined to see such 
irony too easily. 

Notes to Pages 158-67 351 

5. Jeffrey reviewed the Essays in the Edinburgh Review for May of 1811 
(XVIII, 1-46), and subsequently expanded the review into the article "Beauty" 
for the Encyclopaedia Britannica supplement of 1816. His advocacy was like 
that of most enthusiastic disciples it altered the doctrine while spreading it. 

6. Bosanquet, A History of Aesthetic, p. 441. But of course Alison and the 
other philosophical critics were much concerned with distinguishing the relevant 
from the accidental in association; Bosanquet errs gravely in applying his system 
to Alison, for Alison was treating the very problems which Bosanquet regards as 
central, employing throughout the very contrary (form and expression) on which 
Bosanquet's history is based. Bosanquet applies his principles rigidly and without 
insight except to the schools from which he sprang. 

7. Archibald Alison, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste (4th ed.; 
Edinburgh, 1815), Introduction, I, xiv. 

8. Ibid., p. xi. 

9. Ibid., p. xxiii. This important point in the outline is omitted in the first 

10. Ibid., p. xiv. 

11. Ibid., p. xxv. 

12. I bid., p. xiv. 

13. Ibid., pp. xviii- xxi; this discussion was added in the second edition. 
Alison's distinction between these two classes of theorists is weak, for it pre- 
supposes that philosophers avoid postulating special and appropriated faculties; 
Hutcheson and Kames fall, in these terms, with the artists and amateurs. 

14. Ibid.) i. Conclusion. 4, ed. cit., I, 172. 

15. Ibid.) ii. i, ed. cit., I, 69. 

1 6. I see no objection to analyzing the argument of Alison in the terms of 
J, S. Mill's canons of induction, for questions of logic are independent of history. 
But in any case, Mill's canons bear a close relation to Hume's rules for judging 
of causes and effects, and with Hume Alison was familiar. 

17. Alison, Essays ; i. i. i, ed. cit., I, 56. 

18. Ibid.) i. i. 2. I, ed. cit., I, II. 

19. Ibid.) i. i. 2. 2, ed. cit., I, 13-14. 

20. Ibid.) i. i. 3. 2, ed. cit., I, 43. Alison also uses "picturesque" in the 
ordinary sense of "fit for painting" see ibid., ii. 6. 5. 2, ed. cit., II, 411. 

21. Ibid.) i. 2. I. 2, ed. cit., I, 78. 

22. Ibid., i. 2. 2, ed. cit., I, 8 1. 

23. Ibid., i. 2. 2. 4, ed. cit., I, 119. 

24. Ibid., i. 2. 3. 4, ed. cit., I, 157. 

25. Ibtd., i. Conclusion. 3, ed. cit., I, 161. 

26. Ibid., i. Conclusion. 4, ed. cit., I, 172. 

27. Ibid., ii. i, ed. cit., I, 176-77. 

28. James McCosh, The Scottish Philosofhy (New York: Scribner, 1890), 
p. 311. When McCosh tells us that certain colors, proportions, and sounds all 
reducible to mathematical ratios are inherently pleasing, and that other beauties 
land us in the moral good, that, in short, "beauty is a gorgeous robe spread over 
certain portions of the true and the good (ibid, [article on Stewart], p. 297), 
it is clear that we can expect no very sympathetic insight into a literal and 
associational theory. 

352 Notes to Pages 168-70 

29. Alison, Essays, ii. 6. 6, ed. cit., II, 415-16. 

30. Ibid., ii. i, ed. cit., I, 189. 

31. See Reid's letter to Alison, sufra, p. 155. 

32. Alison, Essays, ii. 6. 6, ed. cit., II, 417. 

33. See Monk, The Sublime, pp. 148-53; McKenzie, Critical Responsive- 
ness, pp. 46, 71; Martin Kallich, "The Meaning of Archibald Alison's -Exaiyj 
o# Taste" PQ, XXVII (October, 1948), 315 

34 Alison does not employ resemblance, contiguity, and cause-and-effect 
as the categories of all spontaneous association; nor does he employ the terms 
"idea" and "impression" as Hume does. He speaks of "association in the proper 
sense" i.e., accidental association in contradistinction to "experience," another 
usage foreign to Hume. In addition to these differences in terminology, Hume 
would (as I think) see no impossibility in the produc